Based on the findings of substantial research, Western professionals today perceive corporal punishment as a threat to child well-being. They also view it as a violation of children’s rights. Nonetheless, many minority groups in Western societies still consider it to be a legitimate child-rearing practice. In response to this gap, this article presents qualitative findings from an exploratory context-informed study of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish fathers in Israel, regarding their perceptions and ascribed meanings of corporal punishment. Our exploration was guided by the following research question: What are the constructions, perceptions, beliefs, and meanings associated with corporal punishment among Ultra-Orthodox Litvak fathers in Israel? The thematic analysis of 15 in-depth semi-structured interviews yielded two central themes. The first is the view of corporal punishment as an educational tool with legitimacy based on religious sources and emotion-focused rationales. The second theme deals with different limitations on and guidelines regarding this legitimacy. Children were struck as a result of behavior that parents experienced as extreme, and striking the child in response to religious wrongdoing was viewed as problematic. The fathers interviewed stressed the need to suit the punishment to the child, in terms of the intensity of the blow, frequency, and the age of the child. The fathers also emphasized the importance of the child’s subjective experience being one of education as opposed to humiliation. Implications from these findings illustrate the gaps between the Ultra-Orthodox community and professionals who espouse the Western view that prohibits corporal punishment; at the same time, they portray the fathers as expressing an intricate approach toward corporal punishment, with conditions and limitations, as opposed to absolute approval. This article advocates a context-informed approach toward dealing with corporal punishment in minority groups that legitimize the practice. Adopting such an approach may contribute to better cooperation between professionals and their clients from minority groups, and advance child well-being.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF; Grant Nos 1935/15 and 1958/17).
© The Author(s) 2020.
- context-informed perspective
- corporal punishment
- domestic violence
- physical punishment of children
- Child Abuse