nursing schoolIn life, there are directions for just about anything. Need to travel somewhere? Use a map. Want to cook a meal? Read a recipe. Want to be a great parent? There’s no official handbook for that. In the end, all any parent can do is use their own judgment. 

And there is no single agreement as to how a parent should raise a child, particularly when it comes to differentiating child physical abuse (CPA) and physical discipline (PD) across cultures.

Using the book, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” as a supplement to her ideas, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing PhD student Grace Ho is attempting to better define the line separating those two by evaluating Chinese-American mothers and pediatric nurses through a methodology that studies a person’s perception.

As was done in the Tiger Mother book, her work is examining the vast differences between Eastern and Western parenting and their discipline strategies. Eastern parenting relies on obedience, respect, and character building, while Western parenting centers on embracing a child’s individuality, parental warmth, and nurturing.

Ho’s study, “Differentiating Physical Discipline from Abuse: A Comparison of Chinese-American Mothers and Mandated Nurse Reporters of Abuse,” looks at how PD and CPA differ among cultures, between nurses and mothers of specific cultures, and how acculturation affects parental approaches for immigrants attempting to assimilate into a new society.

Ho is recruiting mothers from Chinese language schools, Chinese churches, and Asian grocery stores in Maryland counties with high Asian-American populations. Nurses who have worked in the pediatric field for at least two years are being recruited from inpatient and outpatient pediatric units at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Through interviews and an online questionnaire, Ho will gauge what separates child abuse and parental discipline.

“This will be a starting point to identify gaps in understanding. I also hope to extend this research to other cultural groups,” Ho explained. In the long run, she wants to inform healthcare providers about her findings, promote cultural sensitivity and competence, increase accurate identification and decrease inaccurate accusations of child abuse.