Study Attempts Accurate Portrait of Spanking

Filed under: Research Reveals: Big Kids

spanking

70 percent of college-educated women spank their kids while 90 percent of all parents believe in the practice. Credit: Getty Images

Sometimes you have to smack a kid.

Sure, some liberal hippie parents pitch a fit whenever a kid is spanked, but on the front lines of parenthood, you can't afford to go soft.

Do you want your kid to grow up to some kind of ... of ... page toucher?

You know the type. They go around touching the pages of books you are trying to read to them. Better a slap on the tuckus now than to let them grow up some kind of social miscreant.

At least one mother -- involved in a research project at Southern Methodist University in Dallas -- understands that. Some 40 parents were asked to make audio recordings of their daily interactions with their children.

Researchers didn't exactly come right out and say this (because they wanted parents to act naturally), but they really wanted to find out how parents spank their children and raise their voices.

The tale of the tape says a lot. Take the Curious Case of the Terrible Toucher.

At 2:03:31 minutes on the tape: "No, Justin." Then 2:03:34 minutes, el smacko! "If you want me to read, quit messing with the pages," the mother snaps angrily. " 'Cause you're moving it while I'm reading."

Another mother in the study snaps and smacks for an entirely different reason: Her toddler hit her, so she hit him. "This is to help you remember not to hit your mother," she tells him on the tape.

"The irony is just amazing," researcher George Holden tells Time magazine.

Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist who has published five books on parenting and child development, recruited parents for his study at day care centers in Dallas, saying only that he wanted to record ordinary day-to-day interactions between parents and children.

He tells Time he wanted to make sure parents didn't alter their behavior to sound good on tape. He also weeded out parents who said they never raise their voices at home.

"There weren't many," he tells the magazine.

Among the other reasons kids got spanked were fights with siblings, refusing to clean rooms and refusal to obey bedtime rules.

Why would parents feel comfortable spanking their kids when the incident is being caught on tape?

Holden tells Time they probably didn't think it was a big deal. He did a study in the '90s that showed 70 percent of college-educated women spank their kids while 90 percent of all parents believe in the practice.

And practice makes imperfect.

Holden tells the magazine kids who are regularly spanked grow up at greater risk of behavior problems. They also are more likely to be abusive to their spouses and children, he says.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.