The First Real-Time Study of Parents Spanking Their Kids
Parents less likely to spank after reading briefly about its links to problems in children
A new study based on real-time audio recordings of parents practicing corporal punishment discovered that spanking was far more common than parents admit, that children were hit for trivial misdeeds and that children then misbehaved within 10 minutes of being punished.
Advocates of corporal punishment have outlined best practices for responsible spanking. But real-time audio from this study revealed that parents fail to follow the guidelines, said psychologist George Holden, who is lead author on the study and a parenting and child development expert at Southern Methodist University, Dallas.
The real-time audio interactions revealed that parents were not always calm, as the guidelines recommend, but instead were often angry when they spanked or hit their child; they didn’t spank as a last resort; and they gave spankings for minor infractions, not just serious misbehavior. And while many spanking advocates recommend hitting children no more than twice, parents in the audio recordings were slapping and hitting their children more often.
"From the audio, we heard parents hitting their children for the most extraordinarily mundane offenses, typically violations of social conventions," Holden said. "Also, corporal punishment wasn’t being used as a last resort. On average, parents hit or spanked just half a minute after the conflict began."
Parents who used corporal punishment in the audio commonly violated three of the six “use” guidelines the researchers examined: Spank infrequently, use it only for serious misbehavior, and only as a last resort.
"The recordings show that most parents responded either impulsively or emotionally, rather than being intentional with their discipline," said Holden, who favors humane alternatives to corporal punishment.