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Identifying child abuse : a structural equation modeling analysis of history of abuse and westernization on perceptions of abuse among Asian-descent and European-descent students Kennedy, Margaret Alexis

Abstract

Structural equation modeling (SEM) analyses were used to explore the relationships among Westernization, histories of child abuse and perceptions of child abuse. Students (n=601) from a large Canadian university completed a research questionnaire about personal histories of child abuse and were asked to provide information on what they would consider to be physically abusive or emotionally abusive behaviour. Perceptions of abuse were measured in part through participants' responses after viewing a video with a staged incident of physical abuse and a scenario depicting emotional abuse. The participants were culturally diverse and were assessed both on their ethnicity and their levels of acculturation. A three-factor model was specified for 225 participants. In addition, the model was re-specified and compared across two samples, a Chinese-descent sample (n=200) and a European-descent sample (n=176). The data suggested that perceptions of abusive behaviour were related to personal experiences with child abuse. This relationship held true for both physical and emotional abuse. Histories of abuse were measured by the Parent-Child Conflict Tactics Scale, the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale and the Parent Discipline Attitudes Survey. Westernization, as measured by generation level, the Vancouver Index of Acculturation and the Filial Piety scale, however, did not predict perceptions of abusive behaviour. Contrary to research findings in Asia, filial piety was not significantly correlated with acceptance of physical discipline. The model for physical abuse and the model for emotional abuse were equivalent for the two samples according to multi-group structural equation model constraints. Participants appeared to assess abuse equivalently intra-culturally and cross-culturally. The age of the child being disciplined changed the acceptability of the physical and emotional discipline strategies. Implications for abuse prevention education are discussed.

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