Anita K. Lampel, Ph.D. Barry Bricklin, Ph.D. Gail Elliot, Ph.D
The Discipline Index (DP systematically obtains information from a child about the child's overall perceptions of each parent's discipline style and practices. Its non-verbal responses spare the child both loyalty conflicts as well as the need to verbalize directly negative statements about either parent. This makes it suitable for use in cases covering an exceptionally broad range of issues, and an exceptionally broad range of ages (from 6 on up).
The DI uses the same copyrighted design as the Bricklin Perceptual Scales (BPS) which has been administered more than 150,000 times since 1983.
The DI has 64 questions, 32 referencing the mother and 32 the father. The child has available a continuum of response choices because he or she responds by punching a hole somewhere along a horizontal black line anchored on the right end by the words VERY OFTEN (or VERY WELL) and on the left end by NOT SO OFTEN (or NOT SO WELL). The child can indicate his/her perception of how often or how well a specific parent engages in the disciplinary activity by making a small hole in the line. (The hole goes through to a scoring grid on the other side of the card.) In this way, the child can make a non-verbal (very private) response to the question, but can also offer spontaneous verbal comments to the assessor.
EXAMPLE: If you are going to a friend's house to play, how often does Mom know what friends you are with? The child puts a hole somewhere along the black line indicating that he/she perceives that Mom knows which friend the child is with VERY OFTEN or NOT VERY OFTEN. The identical question for Dad comes 32 cards later.
The Discipline Index (DI) has been designed to yield answers about parental disciplinary practices in six areas. Each has its own sub-scale.
CLEAR EXPECTATIONS. This assesses how often a parent conveys
his or her expectations clearly to a child. Example:
(Remember, this ''Mom'' question is followed by an identical mad'' question 32 cards later. Half the time the Dad question comes first and half the time the Mom question is first.)
EFFECTIVELY MONITORS BEHAVIOR. This scale targets how often the child perceives each parent as being aware of and tracking his or her activities.
CONSISTENT ENFORCEMENT. This scale was designed to assess the child's belief that the parent has consistent rules, consistently enforces expectations, establishes discipline the parent intends to follow through on, and does not give in to "whining''. Example:If you are supposed to be punished for something but you really try to get out if it, how often would Dad make sure you got punished anyhow?
FAIRNESS. These questions were designed to determine the degree to which the child perceives each parent as fair in disciplinary practices.
ATTUNEMENT. These questions were designed to tap into the child's sense of how well each parent really knows the child, can empathize with the child even when administering discipline and can sense when the child is in difficulty or has done something wrong even when the child has not consciously revealed this. Example:lf you did something wrong on purpose, like you threw a rock at someone, and you didn't want Dad to know, how often would Dad know you had done something wrong anyhow?
MODERATES ANGER. These questions were designed to ferret out concerns about parental over-reactions to relatively minor matters, the use of harsher means of physical discipline, use of frequent physical discipline, and verbal loss of control by a parent.
The Discipline Index (DI) can also be used to asses; the child's perception of one parent and another caretaker or two different caretakers (for example, a foster parent and an aunt with whom the child visits).
The DI CAN BE TRULY HELPFUL IN A LARGE NUMBER OF AREAS:
The manner and means by which parents choose to discipline a child are significantly correlated with many important ultimate outcomes. ( See Appendix A in the DI Handbook for an in-depth bibliography.) Even short of actual abuse, as such, excessive punishment and lack of attunement to a child has negative outcomes as do inconsistent discipline and failure to monitor a child's activities, even in the presence of a loving attitude towards the child.
A child's perception of parental discipline can be key in the child's development. In addition, a child's perception of a parent's disciplinary practices may differ markedly from the parent's perception of those disciplinary practices. How many times has a clinician spoken to a parent about discipline in the home only to find from the child patient that the child has a much different view of parental fairness or parental ability to moderate anger. What seemed to the parent as momentary lapses in anger control left an indelible scar on the child. Similarly, child custody evaluators may hear father complain bitterly about mother's permissiveness, only to find that the child sees mother as the consistent and primary disciplinarian and father as the intermittent autocrat.
Initial validity studies have shown that the Discpline Index (DI) is related to children's perceptions of what good parents do, parents' reports of their limit setting abilities, and teachers reports of classroom problems. In clinical application, the DI has proven very sensitive in a varietal of assessment areas, including picking up on issues of irritable, borderline abusive parenting in the family environment of depressed children and inconsistent parenting in the families of children with acting-out problems. Full validity data is included in the DI Handbook.