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Behind closed doors, parents still spank their kids: surprising results of a new study on corporal punishment

A use for every situation.
A use for every situation.
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When researchers at Southern Methodist University put microphones in the households of 37 families the intent wasn’t to study spanking or corporal punishment—the original aim was to study yelling with voluntary audio recordings of parents conducting life at home. What came back were dozens of instances of smacks and slaps, followed by the crying of little kids who had just been spanked by their parents. Children were spanked for a variety of reasons: not cleaning up their rooms, fighting with siblings, not following their bed time routines. Some of the spanking was for seemingly small infractions (repeatedly turning the pages of a book too soon) and sometimes there was a cruel irony to the spanking (a parent upset at siblings physically fighting with each other doles out corporal punishment), but no matter the justification the spanking was fairly consistent. Even as society has done its best to move away from spanking there are still plenty of parents who feel it’s an acceptable form of discipline. The same lead researcher on this audio study has conducted previous research showing that 70% of college-educated women spank their children and up to 90% of all parents use some form of corporal punishment.

While positive discipline might be all the rage, children are still getting spanked and for the most part parents still feel it’s an acceptable form of controlling and teaching their kids. If microphones were to be placed in your home, would they catch you spanking your child? Is it something that parents should be ashamed of, or did parents of the ‘50’s and ‘60’s have the right idea about the effectiveness of a swift spank on the backside to deter bad behavior?


George Holden, professor of psychology at the Southern Methodist University; lead researcher on a new study of how parents & children interact