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Child corporal punishment: spanking

Types of discipline used by parents.
Prediction of future trends

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What type of discipline do parents use?

bullet In the 1930's: Surveys showed that over 90% of parents spanked their children, some three generations ago. Dr. Benjamin Spock originally endorsed spanking, but then changed his mind in the late 1980's.
bullet In 1994:
bullet 70% of American adults agreed that it is "sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking."
bullet Also in 1994, the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse found that only 49% of American adults had hit or spanked their child in the previous year.
bullet Among religious conservatives: Spanking appears to be still very widely practiced by Fundamentalist and other Evangelical Christians:
bullet Focus on the Family, a Fundamentalist Christian group centered in Colorado surveyed visitors to their web site during late 2003-SEP. Those taking the survey are believed to be overwhelmingly Fundamentalist or other Evangelical Christian. As such, most probably believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, and follow the key verses in the book of Proverbs which advocate corporal punishment of children. They found that:
bullet 91% of those who have children spank them.
bullet 9% do not. 1
bullet In an earlier survey of 2002-JUN, a slight majority (52.5% vs. 47.5%) expressed the belief that schools should not be allowed to spank students. 2
bullet R. Albert Mohler, president of the fundamentalist Christian Southern Baptist Theological Seminary described spanking as "the law of God." He dismissed timeouts and grounding as requiring "a relationship of negotiation between parent and child -- as if a parent cannot impose one of these techniques unilaterally. He regards both methods as "...generally more counterproductive and frustrating than anything else." 3
bullet Among the general population: An online poll conducted by LKAS TV of Las Vegas, NV, found that only one in three parents used spanking as their primary method of discipline. Results were:
bullet 33% used spanking
bullet 32% used restriction of privileges
bullet 17% used time outs
bullet 5% used a traditional torture method: applying hot sauce to burn the child's tongue
bullet 1% washed their child's mouth out with soap
bullet 9% used none of the above.

Future trends:

We predict that:

bullet The use of corporal punishment -- whipping, spanking, tongue burning, washing the mouth out with soap, etc. will continue to decrease in North America as public awareness increases of:
bullet The ineffectiveness of violence as a discipline method compared to other techniques.
bullet The long-term hazards of this form of discipline, including clinical depression, clinical anxiety, drug addiction, and alcohol addiction.
bullet The link between serious forms of punishment and rage, violent actions, and other criminal acts among youth.
bullet These methods will continue to be practiced by most religious conservatives into the foreseeable future, because of their interpretation of the biblical mandate to use corporal punishment.
bullet Fundamentalist and other evangelical parents will be increasingly concerned about government intrusion into their family's discipline methods.
bullet North American child protection services' concern about corporal punishment of all types will increase.
bullet Eventually, the U.S. and Canada will follow the lead of many European countries and declare all forms of physical punishment of children to be forms of abuse, both in the home and school.


  1. "Hand Count," Focus on the Family, at:
  2. "Hand Count," Focus on the Family, at:
  3. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., "Should Spanking Be Banned? Parental Authority Under Assault," The Christian Post, 2004-JUN-23, at:

Copyright 1995 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2009-MAY-17
Author: B.A. Robinson

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