Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Jenelle Shanley Chatham, Ph.D

Second Advisor

Shanta Dube, Ph.D

Third Advisor

Emily Graybill, Ph.D


INTRODUCTION: Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem that affects all countries and cultures alike. Child maltreatment, which includes neglect, physical abuse, emotional abuse and sexual abuse, can result in negative consequences that are lifelong and irreversible. Previous studies have shown the prevalence of all forms of child abuse in India, which is also home to one fifth of the world’s children. However, adequate resources and efforts are not being made to understand the true scope of this problem.

AIM: The present study utilized an existing measure, the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), to understand how parents from the South Indian culture defined acceptable child rearing practices and physical and emotional child abuse. The items from the physical and emotional abuse subscales on the CTQ were also tested for validity and reliability. It was hypothesized that fathers would report higher scores on the physical abuse subscale and mothers would report higher scores on the emotional abuse subscale. It was also hypothesized that parents would find spanking to be an acceptable form of discipline and note that both child physical and emotional abuse are not prevalent in the South Indian community residing in the United States.

METHODS: This study recruited 41 participants (21 mothers and 20 fathers) to complete the CTQ. Of the total number of participants, ten were randomly assigned to participate in an in-depth interview, which focused on how parents in the South Indian community in Georgia interpreted the items on the CTQ and how parents defined child physical and emotional abuse. Reliability and validity testing was conducted using data analysis software SPSS 23.0. Qualitative analysis of the interviews involved Consensual Qualitative Research, identifying common themes among all ten interviews.

RESULTS: Quantitative analysis revealed low to moderate internal consistency for the emotional abuse scale (α = 0.65) and moderate to high internal consistency for the physical abuse scale (α = 0.88). Independent t-test results showed that fathers reported higher scores on both the physical and emotional abuse subscale; however, these results were not significant. Using the Consensual Qualitative Research method, six domains were determined from the interviews. These included: (a) parent perspectives on child rearing practices, (b) spanking as a discipline practice, (c) country differences between India and the United States regarding discipline, (d) prevalence of abuse among the South Indian community in the United States, (e) reporting child abuse, and (f) parents’ awareness of resources to develop parenting skills. A majority of participants reported spanking as an acceptable form of discipline and believed that neither child physical nor emotional abuse was prevalent in the South Indian community in the United States.

CONCLUSION: This study serves as formative research and encourages further investigation of different forms of child abuse in Indian populations, specifically child physical and emotional abuse. Understanding how a culture views children and child rearing practices is important in determining how abuse is defined within said culture. Societies that are more lenient and accepting of violence in general are at a greater risk for perpetrating the maltreatment of children. Establishing a concise definition of child abuse will aid in the development of valid measures that will determine the actual scope of the problem and create solutions, such as laws and policies that will shift a society’s view on appropriate interactions with children.