Monday, November 27, 2017

What About Spanking? A Recent Study





Parents either believe in the value of spanking or they don’t. Many young parents will be guided by scientific evidence but others will follow traditional practices, which often include spanking.

Psychological Science does not support the value of spanking. There is reasonable evidence linking parental spanking by age 5 to behavior problems at ages 6 and 8.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin on findings from their recent study.
 
“Our findings suggest that spanking is not an effective technique and actually makes children’s behavior worse not better.”

Spanking, Ethics, and Research

The reason psychologists cannot speak with a certainty is that it is unethical to conduct experiments where children are randomly assigned to spanking and nonspanking parents.

Sample Size

The sample size was huge. Gershoff and her colleagues looked at the results from 12,112 children whose parents participated in the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.  After identifying those who spanked, the scientists formed a comparison group of parents who did not spank but were similar based on 38 parent and child characteristics such as gender, health, behavior problems, parent’s education, and their social-economic level. They looked at the size of the household and degree of conflict in the home. The also matched on age and marital status. The goal was to create two equivalent groups whose main difference was spanking or not spanking. Read more in the article--see link below.

Spanking: Survey Data

According to an ABCNEWS poll, 65% of U S parents support spanking. About half admit they spank their own children at time but most do not approve of spanking in schools-- 72% believe it should not be permitted.

There is a regional difference. More parents in the U S South (62%) spank than those who live elsewhere (41%).

Spanking also varies with a parent's education. Among those with college degrees, 38% spank but 55% of those with less than a college education spank.

There are no state laws that prohibit spanking in general. But 27 states have policies against spanking. At the time of the poll, spanking was permitted in schools in 23 states. 

What do parents do?

A study of parenting trends between 1988 and 2011 found that U S parents have used less physical discipline. For example, mothers with a median income, reported the use of physical punishment at 21% in 2011 compared to 46% in 1988.  So, what are parents doing? More parents are opting for timeouts and talking with children instead of spanking. (Strauss at Slate)

I should note that timeouts are also challenged. Here's a link to the timeout discussion. https://ifstudies.org/blog/positive-parenting-is-ideal-but-many-children-need-time-outs-too/ 

Technical notes
Surveys rely on self-report, which can be subject to positive impression management.
Large surveys (usually over 1,000) can reduce bias when there is an effort to ensure the sample is representative of a population.
Writers in leading publications write about timeout as one word or with a hyphen, time-out.


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