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Shocking or No? Spankings Are Still the Norm for Half of Americans

Naughty Boy
Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Back in the ’60s, corporal punishment was common practice for a shocking 94 percent of parents in the US. While a lot of us may find this number unsettling, just as many don’t. In fact, half of all parents today admitted to punishing children by “spanking on the bottom with a bare hand” to a telephone poll conducted by the National Institutes for Mental Health.

On the brighter side of things, corporal punishment is definitely declining overall. Nearly every parent polled responded that they try to reason with a disobedient child and almost three-quarters said they redirect misbehaving kids into another activity or use time-outs. In fact, the percentage of parents who approve of hitting children has decreased by almost 50 percent in the last 40 years, if not more.

Sociologist Murray Straus, who has spent his career studying corporal punishment, theorizes that the decline is “part of the long term civilizing process of society” and points out that societal violence in all forms has dropped. He believes levels of education have aided in the decrease in at-home corporal punishment. Studies have shown that educated and wealthier families hit kids less.

Mainly it seems that parents have found more effective ways to discipline their children. Books, television shows and other forms of popular culture endorse the idea that kids can be reasoned and negotiated with and time-outs can be a useful way of keeping peace in the house and teaching young ones about consequences without making them distrustful and powerless.


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