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Friday, October 7, 2011

Researchers Catch Parents Spanking On Tape

Do you remember being spanked as a kid? To parents out there, do you ever spank your kids?

Researchers at Southern Methodist University have captured on tape what’s thought to be the first real-time data of parents using the punishment method and have some surprising findings.

George Holden, professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University told Here & Now’s Robin Young that, “Parents will typically say, yes, I believe in spanking, but I just use it as a last resort. And what we are finding is parents are using it for very trivial incidents.”

While fewer parents spank their kids than a generation ago, research shows that about 60 percent of parents spank their children aged 3 to 11 and nearly 80 percent of parents spank or slap their 3 to 5 year-olds.

Holden started looking at the effects of spanking after he had initially set out to study the impact of parents’ yelling at their kids, and instead was surprised to find how often spanking was used.

On Here & Now’s Facebook page, readers weighted in with a range of opinions:

  • Ron Gaykema writes “spanking is an act of weakness… and it is only counterproductive. Children are taught to solve problems and frustrations by acts of violence.”
  • Gretchen Robinson writes “why would you bring children into the world then hit them?? even if/especially if you’ve been hit yourself. People need to do some critical thinking and not just do as their parents did to them.”

On  the other hand:

  • Paul Zarchin writes “My parents never physically spanked me; they used their mouths with vicious words; wish I was spanked instead.”

Professor Holden passed along some resources he recommends on punishment:



  • Arnall, J. (2010). Discipline without distress. Professional Parenting, Calgary, Canada. Professor Holden says “A sensible and easy to read parenting manual with lots of suggestions.”
  • Holden, G. W. (2010).  Parenting: A dynamic perspective. Los Angeles, Sage. Professor Holden’s take: “This is a research-based book that discusses the problem of corporal punishment of children and how it is associated with various child problems.


  • George Holden, professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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