University of Tasmania

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The pattern of psychophysiological and psychological response to acts of parenting

posted on 2023-05-26, 23:21 authored by Adaway, DJ
LITERATURE REVIEW The incidence of child abuse is reported to have increased substantially in recent decades. In response to literature demonstrating an elevated prevalence, researchers have attempted to elucidate the immediate, short-term and protracted effects of child abuse for the child. It has been identified that child abuse can produce a range of psychological, physiological and relational deficits, in both the short and long-term. The outcomes of punitive parenting have also been explored and found to mirror those of child abuse. However, despite an expansive body of literature identifying the detrimental impacts of child abuse and punitive parenting for the child, research has yet to definitively establish the effects for the enactor of punitive parenting. Specifically, there has been little research attempting to identify the psychological and psychophysiological responses of the parent when engaging in such behaviour. An examination of relevant literature suggests that there is a range of different behaviours, including those of an interpersonal nature, that are maintained by properties that psychologically and psychophysiologically reinforce their use. Research has specifically suggested a role for arousal and tension reduction in the maintenance of aggressive interpersonal behaviours. In light of this research, it is plausible to assume that emotionally and physically punitive methods of punishment will similarly have tension reduction properties for the parent. This literature review will consider the role of tension release as a possible maintaining factor underlying parents' continued use of punitive parenting methods. It will also explore the parenting styles within which punitive parenting may be employed, and the disciplinary strategies which punitive parenting may engender. EMIPRICAL STUDY The present study examined whether there was a tension release component associated with the administration of punishment for parents who engaged in emotionally or physically punitive parenting, as evidenced by a reduction in arousal in the lead up to and during the application of discipline. A personalised, staged guided imagery methodology was used to recreate the acts of punishment. The psychophysiological and psychological responses of physically punitive parents (n = 9) were compared to those of emotionally punitive parents (n = 10), and parents whose application of discipline was neither emotionally nor physically punitive (n = 10). Findings indicated that the level of psychophysiological and psychological arousal experienced by both the experimental groups and control group was equivalent. All participants exhibited an increase rather than decrease in arousal in the lead up to and during the provision of punishment. Potential explanations for these results are considered, including the possibility that the payoffs for the punishing behaviours of both punitive and non-punitive parents are the same and are similarly strongly reinforcing. The need for future research to compare the responses of abusive, punitive parents and non-abusive/punitive parents is highlighted.


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