Corporal Punishment Caught on Tape in New Study

Family Matters on 06.29.11


Psychology professor George Holden enlisted the help of 37 families for a study on how often parents yell at their kids -- but the data surprised even him: The audio recordings that Holden set up to monitor the yelling also picked up parents slapping, hitting, and spanking their children to punish them, resulting in what Time Healthand calls "the first-ever cache of real-time spanking data."

The recordings caught the parents -- 36 mothers and one father -- turning to corporal punishment for offenses that included a child "messing with the pages" of a bedtime story, not cleaning up his room, and fighting with a sibling.

Though studies have found that as many as 90 percent of parents admit to spanking their children, Holden's research offers an opportunity to learn even more about parents who use that punishment technique. "The idea is this data will provide a unique glimpse into what really goes on in families that hasn't been available through traditional methods of self-report," he says.

And perhaps the parents in the study will be more aware of their behavior -- and that hitting or slapping might not give them the long-term effects they're hoping for. From Time:


A child reaching for a tempting object will stop if he gets swatted. "It does work in the immediate moment, but beyond that, in most cases, it's very ineffective," says Holden. "The most common long-term consequence is that children learn to use aggression."

Case in point: one mother in the study hit her toddler after the toddler either hit or kicked the mother, admonishing, "This is to help you remember not to hit your mother."

"The irony is just amazing," says Holden.


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