Online Program

Formal and Informal Policies on Preventing Violent Discipline through Home Visitation

Monday, November 2, 2015

Stephen Edward McMillin, PhD, School of Social Work, College for Public Health and Social Justice, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO
Tyler S. Glassford, MSW, College for Public Health and Social Justice, School of Social Work, Saint Louis University, Saint Louis, MO
Background: Home visiting programs build supportive, non-judgmental relationships between trained staff and at-risk parents of young children through frequent home visits in early childhood.  Although home visitation emphasizes parental independence, programs are also evaluated on specific outcome measures such as whether parents have unrealistic expectations about their child or continue using violent discipline.  Little is known about how home visiting program supervisors (who are often MSWs working in county public health departments) expect staff to address spanking.  

Method: Interviews approximately 90-120 minutes in length were conducted with 19 home visiting program administrators in a large Midwestern state.   

Analysis: Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, coded thematically, and subjected to content analysis. 

Results: Program responses to spanking were coded in four categories: 1) Strongly discourage or 2) discourage spanking; 3) neutrality in which information about spanking was presented with neither encouragement nor discouragement; and 4) non-engagement of non-abusive spanking.  Programs that strongly discouraged spanking emphasized program model and philosophy as their rationale for doing so, while those that did not engage non-abusive spanking emphasized personal choice (of both parents and staff) and as their rationale for not doing so. 


Conclusion: Many program supervisor responses in this sample were ambiguous on spanking prevention even though home visiting programs are directly evaluated in this area.  This study builds on previous public health social work research to suggest that prevention programs may face challenges in understanding the public health risks of non-abusive spanking and in addressing non-abusive spanking with staff.

Learning Areas:

Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Diversity and culture
Ethics, professional and legal requirements
Other professions or practice related to public health
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Identify specific outcome measures related to spanking on which home visitation programs are formally evaluated. Compare signs of non-abusive spanking to physical abuse. Assess how home visitation program models describe expectations about how participating parents will discipline their children over time.

Keyword(s): Child Abuse, Violence & Injury Prevention

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: home visitation program administration is my principal area of research and I have completed extensive qualitative interviews with home visiting program trainers and administrators. I hold a master's degree in health policy and administration from Northwestern University and a master's degree and PhD in social service administration from the University of Chicago.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

Back to: 3318.0: Poster Session 1