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One in Five Parents Would Spank in Certain Settings
Date:4/22/2010

Lee, an assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Wayne State University in Detroit, has done some of her own polling on parents' spanking histories for an as-yet-unpublished paper. Her team interviewed both moms and dads and asked if they had spanked their child within the past month.

Asking the question that way garnered considerably higher numbers than was seen in the Mott survey, Lee said.

Why the disparity? Lee believes that most parents' intention not to spank -- as cited in the Mott survey -- might not pan out in the real world.

It's like saying, "'I think I'm going to go to the gym tonight' -- but if you ask me how many times I actually went to the gym this week, there's a little inconsistency," Mott said. In her opinion, "it may be losing its luster, but [spanking] is still a very common parenting behavior."

And in their Pediatrics study, Lee and her colleagues showed that 3-year-old children who were spanked two or more times the previous month had a 50 percent increased chance of being aggressive by the time they turned 5. Previous work by other researchers has also shown a link between corporal punishment and aggression.

Still, not everyone advocates for a total ban on spanking. According to Alice Sterling Honig, professor emerita in child and family studies at Syracuse University's College of Human Ecology, said that in certain cases some parents may use spanking appropriately.

"You don't spank a small child for using very inappropriate, hurtful words," she said. Instead, you get down to the child's level, look the child in the eye and explain that words hurt peoples' feelings.

But for a toddler who runs into the street after a ball, Honig said proper discipline could consist of two swats to the child's bottom, along with an explanation at eye level of "I love you, and I don't want a car to hurt you."

One thing is certain, Honig noted.


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