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Understanding target audiences for social marketing programs to prevent child abuse in a Malaysian context

posted on 2017-02-15, 23:33 authored by Ahmad, Yarina
This thesis argues that understanding appropriate target audiences underpins the effectiveness of social marketing programs to prevent child abuse in Malaysia and, as a result, failure to target the most appropriate audiences has led to the programs’ inefficiency. Another important aspect under investigation is the extent to which the programs influence public knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of child abuse in Malaysia. In order to do so, the three most prominent Malaysian child abuse prevention programs were identified and form the basis for this study. These programs are the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect Team (SCAN Team) based at the General Hospital Kuala Lumpur; the Child Protection Team (CPT), managed by the Department of Social Welfare; and the Child Protection Unit (CPU), which is placed under the authority of the Royal Malaysian Police. For child abuse prevention programs to effectively target audiences in a Malaysian context, an in-depth insight of the issue is required, specifically a deeper sociological understanding of the potential audiences. An explanatory design using a mix-method approach was adopted for the purpose of this study. It began with quantitative data collection that involved a general survey of 900 Kuala Lumpur residents. Following the survey, qualitative research through in-depth interviews was undertaken involving two groups of participants: seven members of the general public who answered the survey and representatives from each agency. A major finding from this study is that the effectiveness of the three child abuse prevention programs under examination is constantly impeded by an incomplete or confused understanding of the social marketing approach, which is due to insufficient knowledge and resources. Accordingly, the lack of resources prevents the necessary audience research, resulting in poor segmentation and targeting, and furthermore prohibits any evaluation of the programs. This becomes a self-propagating cycle in which the programs are unaware of their effectiveness and therefore continue to make the same errors in targeting the right audience. This thesis has examined how a deeper sociological understanding and approach can be used to effectively target audiences for programs to prevent child abuse in a Malaysian context. There are two major findings from this study that should be taken into account to further enhance the effectiveness of the programs through appropriate targeting and segmentation. The first is that programs must understand the social and cultural attitudes towards child abuse in Malaysia, and, secondly, the social patterns of awareness of child abuse prevention programs and their influence on public knowledge, attitudes and perceptions of child abuse must likewise be considered. The overall finding of this study revealed that sociology can be an effective bridging approach between understanding the right target audiences and successful social marketing programs; this is considered as one of the contributions of sociology to the field of social marketing. Therefore, in dealing with a highly complex issue such as child abuse, understanding target audiences should not be taken for granted. Indeed, overlooking the sociological aspects of understanding target audiences may have hindered the effectiveness of the programs to create awareness and prevent child abuse in Malaysia.


Principal supervisor

Dharmalingam Arunachalam

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Department, School or Centre

School of Social Sciences (Monash Australia)


Doctor of Philosophy

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Faculty of Arts

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