[Corporal punishment in schools was outlawed in China in 1986, but the harsh disciplining of children remains widespread, reflecting a tradition of “dama jiaoyu,” or hitting-and-cursing education, even if it has become a topic of debate among some parents in recent years. The habit can easily slip into abuse, scholars say.]
Elementary students in
punishment in schools in 1986. Credit Lam Yik Fei
for The New York Times
“It won’t work,” I said, appalled and hoping an argument based on efficiency rather than morality might persuade a father who clearly believed the Chinese saying that “a dutiful son is made by the rod.”
“You’re wrong! It will,” he said, breezily, turning his attention to a more agreeable parent at the school meeting, where we were hearing about secondary education options for our children.
Corporal punishment in schools was outlawed in China in 1986, but the harsh disciplining of children remains widespread, reflecting a tradition of “dama jiaoyu,” or hitting-and-cursing education, even if it has become a topic of debate among some parents in recent years. The habit can easily slip into abuse, scholars say.
Figures on child abuse are scarce, reflecting a lack of government and social engagement with the problem, several specialists said.
.In a 2013 study of child abuse and suicidal thoughts among adolescents in Shanghai, the authors, Sylvia Y. C. L. Kwok and Wenyu Chai of the City University of Hong Kong, and Xuesong He of East China University of Science and Technology, noted that in a national survey by the China Law Society of 3,543 people, about 72 percent said that their parents had beaten them.
Another survey cited, of elementary pupils in
, found that 60 percent said
that they were hit, deprived of food or verbally abused by their parents.
“Chinese parents tend to use physical and emotional punishment to solve
parent-child problems and conflicts, which may easily lead to child abuse,” the
authors wrote. Xi’an
“The problem is linked to culture,” Mr. He, a professor of social work and sociology, said in an interview. “Chinese culture is very tolerant of it, so there’s a lot of corporal punishment in families and schools.”
That makes the new Chinese law against domestic violence important for children, who are covered by it, as are older and disabled people. “We need to protect our children,” Mr. He said.
News reports that women across
for and receiving
spousal protection orders from courts since the Anti-Domestic Violence Law took
effect on March 1 showed that they were seizing new opportunities to ensure
their safety. Feng Yuan, a feminist who has just returned from a work trip to a
rural county in the southwestern China , said that women had inundated
the local authorities with requests for information. province of Yunnan
Mr. He has a creative solution: Redeploy the thousands of newly idle family planning workers around the country as a network of child protectors. Their workload has declined, he said, since the government ended the one-child policy.
“They have a giant network around the country. They know where the children are,” he noted. “Each village has a family planning worker. It’s potentially an excellent framework.”
“It’s especially important to educate parents,” he said, “to tell people that there are other ways to raise children. In the villages, a lot of families just don’t know of any methods except ‘dama.’ ”
The Ministry of Civil Affairs, the branch of government with the most responsibility for children’s welfare, he said, was approaching the problem only “slowly.”
Whether spousal or child abuse or other forms of family violence, studies show that they are linked. Abused children are prone to abusing others when they grow up. In a 2011 study of a county in central
by several United Nations
agencies, 52 percent of men said that they had used violence against a partner,
while 47 percent reported that they had beaten their children. China
“Men who witnessed their mother being beaten when they were children were nearly three times more likely to beat their own children than men who had not witnessed violence,” the study said.
Retraining family planning workers to protect children “will be complicated,” Mr. He said, adding that he had not yet proposed the idea to the authorities. “But that’s the ideal.”
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