88% of parents in Bulgaria are aware that slaps are an ineffective discipline method, but many of them continue to apply corporal punishment against their children. Although the use of physical punishment has been decreasing over the past 5 years, about 2/3 of parents have ever used corporal punishment and other traumatic practices such as spatial isolation, non-interference in case of risk of injury, causing discomfort by inconvenient pose or subduing. ¼ of parents systematically apply such practices against their children.
The data is from a national representative survey, conducted by Nomea Agency, commissioned by the National Network for Children. The survey included parents, future parents/ young people and children. The study also presents a comparison with a survey, conducted five years ago by the ESTATЕ agency.
Participants in the survey confess they resort to these methods at a time of affection, frustration and helplessness, when they afraid of losing control over child’s negative behavior. About 30% of parents mention anger and insult as reasons for applying corporal punishment. More and more parents are aware of the harmful consequences and are evaluating the use of corporal punishment in a negative way. However, attitudes remain largely conservative. It is alarming that “hard” adherents of corporal punishment remain a constant share of current and future parents.
It is important to note that respondents perceive as more “traumatic” and more shameful “educational” methods that cause emotional harm to the children – insults, constant yelling, depreciation and neglect. Such practices are more often applied at home than in public places.
The institutional environment also fails in combat against the corporal and similar punishments. The survey confirms that such practices are still common in schools and kindergartens: 41% of parents report that their children suffer from verbal abuse; 22% testify corporal punishment causing pain, and 14% report disregard practices. The study shows a collapse of trust in the institutions that obviously does not guarantee the rights of the children. The share of parents and young people who would call to the emergency line 112 in case of mistreated child decreased by 22 and 30 points respectively. Government institutions are not recognized as supportive by partners in delivering the positive education. At the same time, however, there is an increased public awareness and responsibility – there is a decline in negative attitudes towards the intervention of side observers in cases of child abuse and reporting of such cases. While in 2013 80% of people believed that interference with other people’s family quarrels only led to trouble, in 2018 their share dropped to 56%.
The study also revealed a significant increase in anxiety level among parents and adolescents over the past 5 years. If in 2013 people who rated their place of living as “safe” or “rather safe for children” were about half of the respondents, today they are about 40%. Five years ago, aggression among children was not placed in the list of the most serious risks for children in Bulgaria but nowadays it is placed on the first place. Today the most commonly identified risks for Bulgarian children are the drugs, alcohol and cigarettes use, aggression among children and the risk of accidents and car crashes.
These combined factors lead to the feeling of tension and distress rather than happiness and satisfaction in raising children. At the same time there are constantly increasing demands on parents while they feel lonely in the responsibility for child care. In the past the education was perceived as a responsibility of the whole society, but today it is considered to be a task of the parents only. In the big cities these tendencies are felt more clearly. Increased anxiety and greater responsibilities have as a result more tight control on children in all major aspects of their life.
Communication with children is becoming an increasingly valuable, but its becoming at the same time a deficit. The time spent by parents for active communication with children is only about 14-15% of the whole time spent with the kid and it is noticeably reduced in comparison with the 2013 data.
The stressful daily routine, the shortage of time and the lack of an adequate external support are prerequisites for misunderstanding the reasons for the negative children behavior and hence – for inadequate parenting responses to it. About 67% of parents report systemic problems with their children, and 89% say they have ever had a problem. At the same time, only 30% of parents have looked for information and expert support about a child problem. Only about 5-6% are able to designate a name of organization or institution supporting children.
The research is being carried out within the project “Chapter: Children Help movement against Physical Threatening and Emotional Repression”, which is being implemented by the PULS Foundation, Pernik. Project partners are the National Network for Children, EVRIS – Iceland, UMAR – Portugal and Hope for Children – Cyprus. The project is funded by the European Union’s Rights, Equality and Citizenship Program.
The aim of the project is to establish and pilot a program in 3 countries (Bulgaria, Portugal and Cyprus) in recognition and empowerment of children, parents and institutions to end models using corporal punishment and emotional violence against children. The project also aims to launch a process of self-awareness of the personal value of the youngest members of society.