Sick from anger - Therapist warns that parents who beat children out of rage and stress risk illness
Western Jamaica-based family therapist Dr Beverly Scott is sounding the warning that parents who beat their children out of anger and stress are putting themselves at risk for development of personal illnesses.
She made the observation in light of recent news that a woman from Bath, St Thomas, was caught on video last year mercilessly beating her adolescent daughter with a machete.
The woman, 44-year-old Doreen Dyer, was subsequently charged with cruelty to a child.
Speaking with The Gleaner yesterday, Scott said that many times, parents who beat their children are simply taking out their stress from other issues on the children.
"They (parents) beat the children because of psychological problems or because they don't have jobs or family support, and they don't have proper parenting skills. Because of all their circumstances, they are tired, and they take it out on the children," said Scott.
"Parents can develop hypertension and other stress reactions because they can't cope with the children who have now got out of hand. But I have had parents who, having learned positive parenting skills, would then come and say they went to the doctor afterward and there's no sign of hypertension and their diabetes is gone because the stress is gone."
Dr Max-Anne Bailey, assistant administrator at the Florida-based Ultimate Wellness Association and former medical doctor at the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Montego Bay, gave a more detailed outline of the negative physical effects of stress on the body.
"Stress affects blood pressure and heart rate, thereby affecting the circulatory system. It can lead to chronic inflammation of organs, hair loss and skin changes, sleep disturbance and metabolic disturbance," said Bailey.
... Video recordings not admissible in court
In the meantime, attorney-at-law Bert Samuels said that it is going to be difficult for the prosecution to use a video recording to convince the courts that the mother who was seen in a video beating her child should go to prison.
In 30-second video footage, which has gone viral on social media, the partially nude 44-year-old Doreen Dyer is seen using a cutlass to beat her frantic 12-year-old daughter while using expletives to relay her anger and frustration.
"It's important for the public to know that a video tape or a tape recording or video recording is not the easiest thing to be admitted in a court of law to be used against anyone," said Samuels.
"We have had in the past a tape of a police officer firing at a civilian while he was rolling under a vehicle, and he died, and everyone thought that was a clear-cut case. It turned out that the prosecution in that murder case could not use the tape because the rules of evidence are very strict when it comes to recordings. Unless the mother has confessed to this incident, it's going to be very difficult for the prosecution to use that tape against her."
The attorney said that he strongly recommends that psycho-social interventions be employed to assist the mother.
"Secondly, there must be a complainant, and if the daughter is not willing to testify against her mother, that's another difficulty for the courts. My own opinion is that mediation, social and psychological intervention may be the better course than criminal law itself. In recent times, the courts have resorted to mediation than to have the court of law take its usual course. That's my view on the matter."