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STUDY OF FAMILY INTERACTION LEAD TO NEW UNDERSTANDING OF ABUSIVE PARENTS Researchers at the University of Toronto have taken important steps toward producing a profile of an abusive parent Prof Gary Walters and doctoral student Lynn Oldershaw of the Department of Psychology have developed a system to characterize parents who physically abuse their children This could ultimately allow social service professionals to identify parents in child abuse Over the last five years Walters and Oldershaw in collaboration with Darlene Hall of the West End Creche have examined over 100 mothers and their three to six-year-old children who have been physically abused In the laboratory the mother and child spend 30 minutes in structured activities such as playing eating and cleaning-up The family interaction is video-taped and later analyzed The researchers have developed a system which allows them to record the effectiveness of parenting skills They are particularly interested in disciplinary strategies because abuse most commonly occurs when the parent wants the child to comply Its a question of trying to determine which type of parent produces which type of child or which type of child elicits which type of parental behaviour explains Oldershaw A coverthostile mother shows no positive feelings towards her child She makes blatant attacks on the childs self-worth and denies him affection or attention For his part the child tries to engage his mothers attention and win her approval An emotionally detached mother has very little involvement with her child She appears depressed and uninterested in the childs activities The child of this type of mother displays no characteristics which set him apart from other children In order to put together a parenting profile the two researchers examine the motherchild interaction and their perception and feelings For instance Walters and Oldershaw take into account the mothers sense
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