2014 Archives

To spank or not to spank: Corporal punishment in the US


The following is from the Oct. 20, 2014, edition of The Christian Science Monitor. SMU Psychology Professor George Holden, who is critical of the usefulness of spanking children, provided expertise for this story.

October 20, 2014

By Stephanie Hanes

BOSTON — The way corporal punishment evolved in Sandy Haase’s family is, in many ways, typical. Growing up in Orange County, in California, in the 1960s, Ms. Haase knew what would happen if her father got angry. If she or one of her siblings talked back, or perhaps turned on the TV when they were not supposed to do so, “it was ‘Go and get the yardstick,’ ” she says. 

The “spankings” that would follow, she says, were angry, severe, and scary. One instance left her in need of bandages. When she had children of her own, she and her husband agreed that they would use spanking only as a last resort. 

Which is what they did, recalls her 22-year-old son, Colin. 

Looking at it now, I don’t see it as a negative thing,” he says. He describes his and his sister’s upbringing as warm and loving, with spanking only a very minor part of childhood: “It helped me. It set me straight when I wasn’t listening to words.” 

Still, he says, he does not think he will spank his own children when he has them. . . 

Professor (George) Holden, the Southern Methodist University scholar, this year published a study in which he and his team gave audio recorders to Texas mothers who acknowledged yelling at their young children twice a week or more. The researchers were not looking to study corporal punishment. But they realized when they reviewed the recordings that they had the first, in-the-home look at spanking. (Most studies are based on information reported by parents about their own behavior.)

Fifteen of the 33 families spanked. And none of them did so in the way that either Pingleton or Larzelere says is effective. 

“They were all spanking for minor misbehaviors, and were not spanking as a last resort but as a second resort,” Holden says. “They’d say, ‘No, stop it,’ and then hit. They were spanking after 30 seconds, on average. More than half were pretty heated.” 

And in 30 of 41 incidents, the spanked children misbehaved again within 10 minutes.

Read the full story.

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