Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Spanking remains popular form of discipline

Posted August 24, 2010

Fewer kids are spanked today than in 1975, but nearly 80 percent of preschoolers are still spanked in the United States. And corporal punishment remains common around the world even though two dozen countries have banned it since 1979.

So say three separate, recently published studies of corporal punishment led by researchers at the University of North Carolina Injury Prevention Research Center.

Among the findings in the three studies:

  • Rates of harsh physical discipline revealed by the surveys of families in the U.S., Egypt, India, Chile, the Philippines and Brazil were “dramatically higher” in all communities “than published rates of official physical abuse in any country.”
  • Mothers with fewer years of education more commonly used physical punishment.
  • 18 percent fewer children were slapped or spanked by caregivers in a survey of families in North and South Carolina compared to 1975. But nearly 80 percent of preschoolers were spanked and nearly half of children ages 8 and 9 were hit with an object such as a paddle or switch.

“The U.S., unlike most other high income countries, has had little change in the use of corporal punishment as commonplace," said Dr. Adam J. Zolotor, an assistant professor of family medicine in the UNC School of Medicine who conducted some of the research, in a news release. "Given the weight of evidence that spanking does more harm than good, it is important that parents understand the full range of options for helping to teach their children. A bit of good news is that the decline in the use of harsher forms of punishment is somewhat more impressive.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics is among the many groups that discourage spanking. The practice, experts say, can lose its impact after a while; lead to physical struggles; and increase aggression and anger instead of teaching responsibility.

"It is true that many adults who were spanked as children may be well-adjusted and caring people today," the academy says on its website "However, research has shown that, when compared with children who are not spanked, children who are spanked are more likely to become adults who are depressed, use alcohol, have more anger, hit their own children, hit their spouses, and engage in crime and violence."

The academy also offers some suggestions for discipline including time-outs, consequences and other tips to make discipline more effective.

But there are obviously many people (the majority of parents evidently) who believe spanking is a necessary form of discipline. The conservative Family Research Council says it can fall well within the boundaries of "loving discipline."

Click here to read more about the UNC studies and other findings, including a review of laws and attitudes on corporal punishment around the world.

So have you spanked your kids? Has it worked for you? Or does it cause more problems later on?


Please with your account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • brokechair Aug 29, 2010

    It's a tragic quirk of nature that people idealize, defend and perpetuate absurdity.

    Except in self-defense, hitting another person is as absurd and destructive as a surgeon, for instance, refusing to wash his hands before an operation. Medical doctors were more or less united in stubbornly and even proudly defending this custom until nearly 100 years ago. Fifty years had passed since Pasteur, and sixty since Ignaz Semmelweis had been involuntarily forced into an insane asylum. Semmelweis had discovered that mortality rates in maternity wards where doctors washed their hands before exams and deliveries plummetted from 70 percent and more to low single digits.

    Science is great. But debating whether or not punishment and the threat of it is moral or not is to debate human rights and human sanity, really. There's not a person alive not fit to participate in that discussion. Nothing's more important than getting to the truth.

  • Objective Scientist Aug 28, 2010

    My parents "spanked", I "spanked" as a parent, and over the years I have seen "spanking" discussed many times by parents, teachers, school administrators, "child" psychologists, TV "talking heads", almost everyone it seems. Is there a "standard definition" of "spanking"? For my parents and for me, spanking was a "relatively light but firm 'pop' on the derriere", more of an "attention getter" than anything else, and if one 'pop' failed to get the desired attention, a second 'pop' was administered, no more that that. For some, spanking is apparently true corporal punishment consisting of blows/strikes with an open hand, a belt, a "switch" (small thin branch of a shrub or bush", paddles/small boards, etc., administered repeatedly and with intent to "hurt". Some over-reactive people will scream child abuse at no more than the single, relatively light "pop on the rump", not spanking in my opinion. Any individual discussing spanking should always provide their definition of spanking!

  • phoenixmichaelson Aug 25, 2010

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    American Psychological Association,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    Churches' Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus' Footsteps, Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children, United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    The US states with the highest crime rates and the poorest academic performance are also the ones with the highest rates of child corporal punishment.

  • phoenixmichaelson Aug 25, 2010

    Child bottom-slapping/battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child bottom-slapping/battering (euphemistically labeled "spanking","swatting","switching&qu
    ot;,"smacking", "paddling",or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like "Supernanny" and "Dr. Phil" are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn't a good idea. Here are some good, already listed are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals.

  • phoenixmichaelson Aug 25, 2010

    People used to think it was necessary to "spank" adult members of the community, military trainees, and prisoners. In some countries they still do. In our country, it is considered sexual battery if a person over the age of 18 is "spanked", but only if over the age of 18.

    For one thing, because the buttocks are so close to the sex organs, anl region, and so multiply linked to sexual nerve centers, striking them can trigger powerful and involuntary sexual stimulus in some people. There are numerous physiological ways in which it can be intentionally or unintentionally sexually abusive, but I won't list them all here. One can read the testimony, documentation, and educational resources available from the website of Parents and Teachers Against Violence In Education at

  • mgratk Aug 24, 2010

    I think those researchers need to be spanked.

  • WakeCountyRedNeck Aug 24, 2010

    He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes. Proverbs 13:24 (King James Version)

  • phoenixmichaelson Aug 24, 2010

    "The most positive social changes around the world have followed mass improvements in the way children are treated."
    Robin Grille, author of Parenting for a Peaceful World, 2005.

    "If we really want a peaceful and compassionate world, we need to build communities of trust where all children are respected, where home and school are safe places to be and where discipline is taught by example."
    Desmond M. Tutu, Archbishop Emeritus, Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, 2006.

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson

    NO VITAL ORGANS THERE, So They Say by Lesli Taylor M.D and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

  • mewubbau Aug 24, 2010

    When my daughter was little I wouldn't call it a spanking, but I did give her a "pop" on her behind every now and then. It was a last resort and/or if she was in a situation where she could hurt herself and not following directions. I don't think I was ever out of control and did not overuse the method. We had timeouts and loss of privledges also.

  • shall6 Aug 24, 2010

    Hi kbow80,

    If you're looking for alternatives, click on the link, which offers some alternatives. I'm going to include that in the post.