In one recording, a mom spanks her 3-year-old 11 times for fighting with his sister. In another, a mom slaps her son for turning the page of a book while she reads to him. In still another, a mom spanks her 5-year-old when he refuses to clean up his room after repeated warnings to do so.
Those are examples of the corporal punishment captured by a study of 37 families in which mothers voluntarily recorded their evening interactions with their young children, said psychologist George W. Holden, lead researcher on the study.
The audio recordings, believed to be the first of their kind, provide real-time data captured before, during and after mothers disciplined their children with spanking or slapping, say the study's researchers.
The unique recordings capture from 12 hours to 36 hours of data over the course of six days from each mother, mainly the daily ordinary activities such as fixing supper and bathing children, said Holden, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University, Dallas. But occasionally conflict erupts, sometimes followed by corporal punishment.
The data go to the heart of the long-running debate over whether parents should spank their children.
"In the case where the child was slapped for grabbing a book, it was not 10 seconds later he did it again," said Holden. "The amazing thing is, the mom was reading so nicely to the child and the child was being so normal, reaching for the book or wanting to turn the page or point to something."
Believed to be first audio data of naturally occurring spanking
With its "event-sampling" approach, the research is a unique opportunity to understand what's going on in the life of a family before spanking, including whether conflict gradually escalates or instead blows up out of nowhere, Holden said. It also reveals what occurs with spanking, such as verbal reprimands, admonitions, yelling or time-out.
"Despite the fact there
|Contact: Margaret Allen|
Southern Methodist University