Case Study: Formative Research

CDC Department of Violence Prevention: Social Norms Research

The CDC Department of Violence Prevention was interested in creating a messaging framework to change the social norms around corporal punishment among diverse parents. To create effective and engaging messages, they first needed to understand how beliefs and attitudes about spanking, punishing, and nurturing young children differed among parents from different cultural backgrounds.

ACR was subcontracted to Banyan Communications to collect feedback from diverse parents of children ages 0-5 to explore parental beliefs and attitudes about corporal punishment and nurturing; identify perceived social norms around corporal punishment; and identify salient, motivating, and culturally appropriate language and messages that could change perceived norms around corporal punishment.

One critical consideration for this research was ensuring participants were comfortable and willing to share personal and sensitive information about parenting. We took several steps to make this happen:

  • Focus groups (n=13) were segmented by gender and race/ethnicity and moderators were matched to the race/ethnicity and gender of the focus group participants;
  • Moderators participated in a detailed training, which included mock focus groups with actual parents and a detailed review of questions for cultural accuracy;
  • We recruited participants through trusted and familiar community partners (e.g. schools, community centers, churches) and hosted the groups at these locations.

Our research and analysis led to 12 strategic messages developed by Banyan, and also supported a peer-reviewed publication published by the CDC principal investigators[1].

[1] Klevens, J., Kollar, L., Rizzo, G., O’Shea, G., & Nguyen, J., & Roby, S. (2019). Commonalities and differences in social norms related to corporal punishment among Black, white, and Latino parents. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal Special Issue: Social Norms.

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