Differentiating physical discipline from abuse: Q findings from Chinese American mothers and pediatric nurses

Wing Ka Grace Ho, Deborah A. Gross

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

15 Citations (Scopus)


The perception and use of physical discipline (PD) is culture-based, and the differentiation between PD and abuse is subjective and complex. The purpose of this study was to understand how Chinese American mothers and one group of mandated reporters of child abuse (i.e. pediatric nurses) differentiate PD from abuse. Using Q-methodology, 3 viewpoints on PD and abuse differentiation were uncovered from a sample of 35 Chinese American mothers and 48 pediatric nurses. Although there was wide consensus on the most acceptable and most unacceptable parent discipline behaviors across the 3 views, the acceptability of punishments differed by their potential to inflict injury, pain, or incite fear and uncertainty. This was the first study to examine PD and abuse differentiation based on 5 definable domains of PD (i.e. specific behavior, intention, delivery, outcome, and pattern of use). Findings point to important nuances in how some mothers and nurses differentiate abuse from acceptable discipline, and the potential for using Q-methodology for exploring PD and abuse differentiations across diverse cultural, social, and professional groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)83-94
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Child abuse
  • Cross-culture
  • Parenting
  • Physical discipline
  • Q-methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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