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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Parenting Styles and Modes of Discipline across Cultures

“Study finds every style of parenting produces miserable, disturbed adults. A study released by the California Parenting Institute Tuesday shows that every style of parenting inevitably causes children to grow into profoundly unhappy adults. "Our research suggests that while overprotective parenting ultimately produces adults unprepared to contend with life's difficulties, highly permissive parenting leads to feelings of bitterness and isolation throughout adulthood.” The Onion, October 26, 2011

While the above quote from the Onion is satire, it does introduce some important questions about parenting styles. What are the various styles of raising children throughout the world and are any of them really effective? Parenting styles vary between households, families, and cultures; each having different ways of raising their children. According to Diana Baumrind there are three different parenting styles. Do they differ cross-culturally, and if so are they considered to be acceptable in the current culture the family is living?

One common parenting style is called authoritarian parenting. In this style of parenting, children are expected to follow the strict rules established by the parents. Failure to follow such rules usually results in punishment. Authoritarian parents fail to explain the reasoning behind these rules. If asked to explain, the parent might simply reply, "Because I said so." These parents have high demands, but are not responsive to their children. According to Baumrind, these parents "are obedience- and status-oriented, and expect their orders to be obeyed without explanation" (1991).

In contrast to authoritarian parents, those with an authoritative parenting style establish rules and guidelines, however; they tend to be more democratic. Authoritative parents are responsive to their children and willing to listen to questions. When children fail to meet the expectations, these parents are more nurturing and forgiving rather than punishing. Baumrind suggests that these parents "monitor and impart clear standards for their children’s conduct. They are assertive, but not intrusive and restrictive. Their disciplinary methods are supportive, rather than punitive. They want their children to be assertive as well as socially responsible, and self-regulated as well as cooperative" (1991).

A permissive parent, unlike authoritarian or authoritative parents are less likely to establish rules for their children. Permissive parents, sometimes referred to as indulgent parents, make very few demands of their children. These parents rarely discipline their children because they have relatively low expectations of maturity and self-control. According to Baumrind, permissive parents "are more responsive than they are demanding. They are nontraditional and lenient, do not require mature behavior, allow considerable self-regulation, and avoid confrontation" (1991). Permissive parents are generally nurturing and communicative with their children, often taking on the status of a friend more than that of a parent.

The parenting style adopted by a parent, and the nature of the relationship that they choose to establish with their children is greatly influenced by culture. Societal norms define parenting (although they are modified to accommodate personal style or preference). Across all cultures, the most basic premises of parenting are uniform; parents are expected to nurture and provide for their children, and to educate them. What does in fact differ across cultures is the approach that parents choose to employ while educating their children. The areas of parenting incorporated in this variation include roles, parent-child relationships, and practices related to raising and educating children (Bornstein & Bohr, 2011).

Although approaches to parenting differ cross-culturally, it is important to note that these variations must fall within the normal parameters of parenting. In other words, differences in parenting style, detailed in Baumrind's parenting typology (introduced above) do not include "deviant parenting, such as might be observed in abusive or neglectful homes (Darling, 1999)". Baumrind's typology, rather, references different parenting styles with regard to the level of control exerted by parents over their children. For example, authoritative-style parents would typically exert a greater level of control over their children than would permissive parents, the parent-child relationship would be more intensive, and parents' expectations of their children would be higher. This higher level of parental control, however, is unrelated to the level to which parents care for and educate their children; Darling posits that regardless of parenting style, parents are expected to "influence, teach and control their children (1999)". This in effect suggests that although approaches to parenting vary between cultures, acceptable parenting approaches include only parenting behaviors that fall within the normal variation spectrum of parenting. The normal range, therefore, does not include abusive or neglectful parenting behaviors - regardless of cultural dictates.

That being said, it is important to define what constitutes the normal range of parenting behaviors? Which parenting styles can be classified as abusive or neglectful? Are there cultures that include deviant parenting styles or practices in their definitions of the cultural norm?

As families immigrate to the United States they undergo the process of acculturation, which requires cultural and psychological changes. As immigrant parents interact with other parents, teachers, and professionals they gain different views of parenting as well as strategies that may depart from what has been ingrained in them. Most parents will then adopt some of these new strategies while also keeping some from their old culture. However, the practices they choose to adopt or modify varies from person to person and usually any changes that occur will be those in the public domain. Cultural maintenance of customs from the old culture with often be maintained in the private domain, which affects the home and family.

Educators may not be aware of the many practices that are common in different cultures. The American middle-class culture is one of the few cultures that uses positive reinforcement procedures while limiting punishment. Usually discipline is approached as isolating the misbehaving child and withdrawing love and affection for a period of time, which we see as more humane than those who incorporate physical punishment. The lack of knowledge that most educators have regarding child abuse and cultural differences in raising children results in misjudging the appropriateness of parental actions. Teachers often end up finding different practices as being abusive. Some culturally diverse parents may prefer to use quick physical punishment rather than ever hinting at emotional separation from their child that may create feelings of rejection.

A few of the many incidents that may arise are listed below:

-A novice teacher in a poor urban school district is distressed when upon seeking advise from colleagues regarding discipline, is told by them to use physical punishment. This coincides with the advise of the students in his class who tell him to "Hit `em upside the head". In fact, physical punishment is more accepted in the low socio-economic classes (Gollnick & Chinn, 1990; Horton & Hunt, 1968; Persky, 1974; Spinetta & Rigler, 1972; Hanna, 1988), and educators who teach these students are more likely to approve of corporal punishment (McDowell & Friedman, 1979; Bauer, Dubanoski, Yamauchi & Honbo, 1990), perhaps believing that one must "use what they know".

-A teacher phones a student's parents to inquire as to how that pupil came to have welts on his body. She is given a religious defense based on the biblical book of proverbs that promotes the use "the rod". Indeed, Fundamentalists, Evangelists, and Baptists respond more punitively in disciplinary situations than people who are affiliated with other major religious orientations (Hyman, 1988).

-A teacher wrestles with the issue of whether to report a poor student's parents who are, in her mind, neglectful. She is aware that in low income areas, early independence with limited guidance or training is the norm (Horton & Hunt, 1968; Miller, 1959), as is the use of inconsistent and harsh physical punishment whereby children are taught to obey rather than reason (Farrington, 1986; Hanna 1988; Stack, 1974). However, these practices violate her beliefs regarding proper child-rearing.
Culture not only affects how a child is disciplined but also the bond that may exist between parent and child. Some cultures may value a very close relationship, some more distant but controlling, and some may prefer to leave the child in the hands of others such as teachers or professionals. For example Bornstein and Bohr found that “Chinese Canadian transnational parents opt to allow grandparents to care for their infants, based on expectations of their culture of origin, despite emotional hardship and disapproval within the receiving culture” (2011).

With the complications that arise from each culture and society’s definition of abuse at what point would you determine that a family only needs information or assistance? At what point do children need to be removed?

How will you personally determine the difference between someone knowingly committing abuse or neglect and someone only going along with the type of behavior that they have been exposed to in their culture.

This blog was created by Natalie Wiggins, Kimberly Schielke, Rachel O'Hara, Penina Abraham, Wendy Fine, and Steve Barosi.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Anti-Bullying Law...NOW WHAT?!?

"A person is bullied when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more other persons, and he or she has difficulty defending himself or herself."
- Dan Olweus

Bullying is one of the most important issues children are faced with during their school career. The four main types of bullying in school are physical bullying, verbal bullying, social bullying, and cyber bullying. Physical bullying is any unwanted physical contact intended to cause bodily harm which includes punching, kicking, or shoving. Verbal bullying includes things like insults, name-calling, and racial slurs. Social bullying is the spreading of rumors and gossip or the outright exclusion or isolation of another. Cyber bullying is any form of bullying through the use of the Internet or other electronic devices such as cell phones. Bullying can affect more than just the bully and the victim. It can affect the bystanders, the general atmosphere of a school, school faculty and staff, the families of all involved, and the entire community. Kids are bullied every day in almost every school all around the world and many of them do not know where to turn for help or even if help is available.

• What should a victim do? Report to someone? What if gets worse? Fight back?
• What should a bystander do? Help? How?
• If a victim fights back against the bully, should there be consequences? If so, what? If not, why?


• "Over half, about 56 percent, of all students have witnessed a bullying crime take place while at school." www.bullyinstatistics.org
According to Cyber bullying statistics from the i-SAFE foundation: Over half of adolescents and teens have been bullied online, and about the same number have engaged in cyber bullying.
• More than 1 in 3 young people have experienced cyber threats online.
• Over 25 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied repeatedly through their cell phones or the Internet.
• Well over half of young people do not tell their parents when cyber bullying occurs.

• Bullycide is a term used to describe suicide as the result of bullying. New bullying statistics 2010 are reporting that there is a strong connection between bullying, being bullied and suicide, according to a new study from the Yale School of Medicine. Suicide rates are continuing to grow among adolescents, and have grown more than 50 percent in the past 30 years. www.bullyingstatistics.org

It is important that we realize what damage bullying has done to every aspect of a student’s life. Whether it be a small or large instance of bullying, it is always an issue that needs to be addressed. New Jersey has decided to prove that their zero tolerance for bullying has reached an ultimate high. The new Anti-Bullying Law is hoping to change these statistics for the better.

NJ Anti-Bullying Law
New Jersey enacted its public school anti-bullying statute in 2002. In 2007, the law was amended to include cyber-bullying and in 2008 the law required that each school district posted its anti-bullying policy on its website as well as distribute it annually to the parents or guardians of the students from their district. The most recent amendment, known as the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act”, has been touted by many to be the toughest in the nation. Below are the most significant changes that are intended to strengthen the procedures that occur after incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying of students that occur in school and off school grounds.

• Information regarding the district’s policy must be incorporated into the a school’s employee training program and must be provided to all staff, volunteers who have significant contact with students, and those persons contracted by the district to provide services to students.
• Board members, whether newly appointed, elected, re-elected, or re-appointed, need to complete a training program on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools (but only once).
• Training on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools shall be provided by the New Jersey School Boards Association, through the consultation from a myriad of recognized experts in school bullying
• The principal must notify the district superintendent of schools of all the action taken, which the superintendent must then report twice a year to the board of education.
• The reports will then be used to grade each school in their effort, and the averaging of the schools will result in the district’s grade. The grade received will then be posted on the district’s website within 10 days.
• Acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying must be reported verbally to the school principal on the same day and in writing within 2 days. The principal must then inform the parents or guardians of all involved parties of the incident and the available intervention services. This excludes cases when the incident occurs between students in the special services school district, students in special education, or students with disabilities, in which case, the school employee will have the discretion to determine if the incident merits a formal report.
• The principal must then initiate an investigation within 1 school day of the report which shall be conducted by a school anti-bully specialist. The investigation must be completed within 10 days of the written report. The results of the investigation will then be reported to the superintendent of schools within 2 days of the completion of the investigation. After this, the results of the investigation must be reported to the board of education and the parents of guardians of the involved students.
• The parents or guardians need to receive the results within 5 days of it being reported to the board. They may then request a hearing before the board and this request must be met within 10 days.
• The parent, student, guardian, or organization may file a complaint with the Division on Civil Rights within 180 days of the incident.
• The school’s response to the incident can be defined by the principal in conjunction with the school anti-bullying specialist.
• The school district must conduct a re-evaluation, reassessment, and review of its policy, making any necessary revisions and additions.

Positives/Negatives of NJ Anti-Bullying Law

The passing of the new Anti-Bullying law has put into action a whole new group of responsibilities on the school systems. The law has successfully spread a greater awareness of bullying in schools and the effects it has on all students. This comes at a time when bullying related suicides are being increasingly reported in the media. The law has even named the first school week in October as “Week of Respect”, if schools were not previously motivated to deal with harassment, intimidation, and bullying they most certainly are now. The law imposes many consequences onto school districts if they are not following through with reporting and setting up intervention and prevention plans.

The Anti-Bullying law lays out steps that the school must follow from the moment they are informed of a bullying incident until the investigation and report are completed. With the good intentions of the law also come many flaws. It requires training of teachers and staff members in the district, however, where are the workshops and training programs? Are we responsible for setting them up ourselves, and with what resources? The law also states that each public school’s principal is require to appoint the currently employed school counselor, school psychologist or other similarly trained individual as the school anti-bullying specialist. This is a great idea and there should be an anti-bullying specialist at each school but being similarly trained does not help when the training is not about bullying. Most school psychologists would be uncomfortable being labeled as a specialist in a field they are not trained in. School districts will also be graded on their efforts to “implement policies and programs consistent with the ‘Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act’ not on their efforts to identify harassment, intimidation, or bullying.”

The law gives no guidelines to what intervention and prevention plans need to be implemented besides the fact that they need to address bullying, so on what guidelines will they be grading districts? The grade is then required to be posted on the district website, what happens if a school receives a low or failing grade? Will funding be affected? This can become another situation similar to the No Child Left behind Act where schools who need funding the most, in order to set up and implement programs, are not the ones who receive it and are instead punished.

• Should we already be prepared to handle these issues?
• Will grading districts motivate them to do better or only hurt them?
• Should it be the state or the individual school districts who are responsible for setting up training programs? Is it not each district that knows their children and the way their system works best?

This blog was created by:Nick Pomponio, Karena Ferrera, Ifat Sade, Dennis Chae, Charlotte O'Hara, Michelle Cervino

Monday, September 26, 2011

Over Classification and Misdiagnosis of Students

"There's an excessive tendency to apply biological and psychological labels rather than view them as challenges kids face growing up – challenges like self-discipline, self-control, or a variance in learning style, information processing, or how individual children learn best…"
-Brock Eide

New Jersey has the 4th highest percentage of students with disabilities in the nation. The number of students receiving special education services is increasing yearly and school district budgets are decreasing. Despite suffering huge budget cuts, districts have to allocate more money every year to accommodate students with special needs.

Are these funds being inappropriately managed by being spent on students who may not necessarily qualify for Special Education Services?
How many of these students are truly in need of services?

Today the classroom is more diverse. Students come from different backgrounds, which impact academic, emotional, and social needs. Teachers need to be mindful of students’ unique learning styles and multicultural backgrounds. Recent research supports hands- on learning as a beneficial learning technique for all students. For example, activities that encourage active involvement among students are preferred instead of sitting and listening in a lecture-based style. Before teachers refer students to school psychologists for diagnosis, it is essential for teachers to try interventions on their own. If these interventions are successful, it can prevent students from being misdiagnosed and inappropriately labeled. Students who are misdiagnosed may be prone to stigmatization by teachers, parents, and peers. As a result, the stigma affects students’ growth, as they may become defined by their label.

Is the child truly in need of services or are teachers not fully equipped to meet students’ individual needs in the classroom?
Why are teachers allowed to dump students on school psychologists before initially trying problem-solving techniques on their own?

One of the culprits of overclassification stems from teachers’ responses to student behaviors. For example, a teacher may view an active child who misbehaves in the classroom as having a behavioral disorder and refer him/her to the school psychologist, when in fact it may be an environmental factor, such as the lack of structure reinforced in the home. Parenting greatly impacts a student’s behavior and readiness to learn. Children who do not experience structure and limits at home may have difficulty complying with rules and expectations in school. These students are less prepared for the structured setting within a classroom. It is essential for professionals to not assume there is a biological or psychological issue before an environment problem is ruled out.

Are professionals too quick to diagnose children before trouble shooting other interventions?
What is the impact of parenting on student progress?

Not only are teachers overwhelmed and frustrated but parents are as well. Some parents look to receive services when they see their child struggle in school. Parent’s frustration and their expectations for their child to succeed results in school districts feeling impinged to comply with parental requests.
In some cases, school districts comply with parental requests in order to avoid legal ramifications. When these students do not meet the criteria for a specific learning deficit, they are grouped in the classification of Other Health Impaired (OHI). This allows school districts to appease parents by allowing their children to receive accommodations and modifications.

Is it ethical for school districts to use funds to appease parents when their child is not eligible for Special Education Services?
Should parent satisfaction take precedent over a child’s legitimate need?
How does this affect the students whose parents do not push for additional accommodations?

This Blog was created by:
Dana Koplik, Gene Zannetti, Jennifer Fandino, Lauren Riker, Nicholas Vitaro, & Sergio Oliva