Research: To spank or not to spank? SMU studies show research can change minds about corporal punishment

Alan Brown

Research: To spank or not to spank? SMU studies show research can change minds about corporal punishment

Some parents who spank their children believe it’s an effective form of discipline. But decades of studies have found that spanking is linked to short- and long-term child behavior problems.

Is there any way to get parents to change their minds and stop spanking? Child psychologist George Holden, a professor in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, wanted to see if parents’ positive views toward spanking could be reversed if they were made aware of the research.

Holden and three colleagues in the Department of Psychology used a simple, fast, inexpensive method to briefly expose subjects to short research summaries that detailed spanking’s negative impact. With Professor Alan Brown, Assistant Professor Austin Baldwin and graduate student Kathryn Croft Caderao, he carried out two studies: one with non-parents and one with parents. They found that attitudes were significantly altered.

“Parents spank with good intentions – they believe it will promote good behavior, and they don’t intend to harm the child. But research increasingly indicates that spanking is actually a harmful practice,” said Holden, lead author on the study. “These studies demonstrate that a brief exposure to research findings can reduce positive corporal punishment attitudes in parents and non-parents.”

The findings, “Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment,” have been published in the international journal Child Abuse & Neglect. The researchers believe the study is the first of its kind to find that brief exposure to spanking research can alter people’s views toward spanking. Previous studies in the field have relied on more intensive, time-consuming and costly methods to attempt to change attitudes toward spanking.

Research has found that parents who spank believe spanking can make children behave or respect them. That belief drives parental behavior, more so than their level of anger, the seriousness of the child’s misbehavior or the parent’s perceived intent of the child’s misbehavior.

In the first SMU study, the subjects were 118 non-parent college students divided into two groups: one that actively processed web-based information about spanking research; and one that passively read web summaries.

The summary consisted of several sentences describing the link between spanking and short- and long-term child behavior problems, including aggressive and delinquent acts, poor quality of parent-child relationships and an increased risk of child physical abuse.

The majority of the participants in the study, 74.6 percent, thought less favorably of spanking after reading the summary. Unexpectedly, the researchers said, attitude change was significant for both active and passive participants.

A second study replicated the first study, but with 263 parent participants, predominantly white mothers. The researchers suspected parents might be more resistant to change their attitudes. Parents already have established disciplinary practices, are more invested in their current practices and have sought advice from trusted individuals.

But the results indicated otherwise. After reading brief research statements on the web, 46.7 percent of the parents changed their attitudes and expressed less approval of spanking.

“If we can educate people about this issue of corporal punishment, these studies show that we can in a very quick way begin changing attitudes,” said Holden.

Written by Margaret Allen

> Read the full story at the SMU Research blog

February 4, 2014|Research|

Faculty in the News: Summer 2008

VOTE buttonsCal Jillson, Political Science, provided expertise for several Election 2008 stories during the summer, discussing:

  • the significance of Hillary Clinton’s prime-time speech placement at the Democratic National Convention in The Canadian Press Aug. 24, 2008
  • the drama viewers won’t see at the major parties’ political conventions in The Arizona Republic Aug. 18, 2008
  • the “mixed bag” for students and universities resulting from the new Higher Education Act in The Fort Worth Star-Telegram Aug. 10, 2008, as well as Texas’ fund-raising importance to both major political parties in the paper’s July 28, 2008 edition
  • the reasons why John Cornyn’s campaign press releases are aimed at his Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate rather than at his Democratic opponent, Rick Noriega, in The Houston Chronicle Aug. 4, 2008
  • Texas Democrats’ hopes that Barack Obama’s candidacy can help the state party rebound in the Associated Press July 17, 2008, as well as the lack of a “quick fix” for the foreclosure crisis, now matter who is elected president, with the wire service for its July 5, 2008 edition
  • how the gay-marriage issue will play out in the presidential campaign in Reuters June 19, 2008
  • the differences in style and substance between Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama in Singapore’s The Electric New Paper June 15, 2008

Gas pumpBruce Bullock, Maguire Energy Institute, spoke with several media outlets during Summer 2008 about soaring fuel prices and other energy issues, including:

Peter Weyand, Simmons School of Education and Human Development, discussed Usain Bolt’s Olympic sprinting performance, and the possibility of humans someday running as fast as the fastest four-legged animals, with The Times of India Aug. 20, 2008.

Suku Nair, Computer Science and Engineering, talked about growing concerns for the security of wireless technology with Fox 4 News Aug. 17, 2008.

SMU Olympic swimmerDave Wollman, Track and Field/Cross Country, shared tips on how to train like an Olympian with The Dallas Morning News Aug. 12, 2008.

Fred Moss, Law, discussed recent developments in the Dallas City Hall corruption case with CBS 11 News Aug. 13, 2008. He talked about the merits of hate-crime charges being filed against a man accused of committing random shootings in four Dallas suburbs with The Dallas Morning News July 9, 2008. In addition, he discussed the issues involved in using DNA testing to exonerate those who may have been wrongly convicted of crimes with Reuters July 2, 2008.

Van Kemper, Anthropology, spoke with The Dallas Morning News Aug. 12, 2008, about how the proposed renaming of historic Ross Avenue has put the Dallas City Council in a no-win situation.

Mike Davis, Finance, discussed why the Consumer Price Index may not match a family’s reality with The Dallas Morning News Aug. 4, 2008.

Linda Eads, Law, talked about the merits of searching a defense attorney’s office in a Frisco, Texas murder-for-hire case with The Dallas Morning News July 27, 2008.

Edward Fox, Marketing, discussed the implications of the Minyard supermarket chain’s sale of 37 Carnival stores, along with the Carnival brand itself, with The Dallas Morning News July 24, 2008. He also talked about Wal-Mart’s plans to dramatically scale down a proposed new store in Austin with The Austin American-Statesman June 24, 2008.

Planet EarthMaria Richards, Earth Sciences, discussed geothermal energy as the “lost” component of the alternative-energy push with U.S. News & World Report July 21, 2008.

Patricia Mathes, Institute for Reading Research, talked about North Texas students’ struggles with the written portion of the TAKS test with The Dallas Morning News July 20, 2008.

Mark Chancey, Religious Studies, discussed a decision by the State Board of Education to allow elective Bible courses in Texas high schools with The Dallas Morning News July 11, 2008.

Matt Wilson, Political Science, discussed whether Karl Rove’s criticism of Mitt Romney is aimed at helping Romney become John McCain’s running mate with Salt Lake City’s Deseret News July 16, 2008. He also talked about why both Barack Obama and John McCain need the abortion issue with Reuters May 28, 2008.

Al Armendariz, Environmental and Civil Engineering, discussed the shortcomings of the new North Texas clean-air plan with the Dallas Business Journal July 11, 2008.

Geoff Orsak, Engineering Dean, provided expertise for a Robert Miller column on how North Texas engineering schools are meeting the demand for engineers with state-of-the-art programs and facilities. The column appeared in The Dallas Morning News June 29, 2008.

Alan Brown, Psychology, discussed his research, which may reveal the secret to winning game shows, with Psychology Today for its July/August 2008 issue.

Dan Howard, Marketing, provided expertise for a story on how frugal spenders can buck an economic downturn that appeared in The Arizona Republic Aug. 8, 2008. He talked about how rising ticket prices will affect the future of the airline industry in The Dallas Morning News June 23, 2008. In addition, he discussed how General Motors’ possible discontinuation of the Hummer reflects the restructuring of the North American automotive industry with The Ottawa Citizen June 14, 2008.

Jessica Dixon, Law, discussed the “puzzling” actions of Texas Child Protective Services in the case of the FDLS polygamist cult with The Dallas Morning News June 18, 2008.

Oil derrickFrank Lloyd, Cox Executive Education, discussed the importance of capable leadership in the global petroleum industry with The Earth Times June 18, 2008.

Robin Lovin, Maguire University Professor of Ethics, discussed the changing relationship between religion and politics in an essay published in Religion and Ethics Newsweekly June 12, 2008.

Joseph Dancy, Law, discussed how landowners can test the mineral-rights market through an eBay auction with Platts June 3, 2008

Ron Moss, Admissions, discussed the effects of intense college admission competition among the 2008 high school graduating class with WFAA Channel 8 June 3, 2008.

August 29, 2008|Faculty in the News|

Faculty books for giving (and keeping)

(Originally published Dec. 6, 2007.)

'Psychology of the Simpsons' coverWith subjects ranging from the art of the Maya to the psychology of America’s favorite dysfunctional animated family, SMU faculty members and researchers published or won awards for a bevy of books during 2007. We’ve made a list, and invite you to add your own favorite books in the comments. Read more.

(more…)

December 13, 2007|News|

For the Record (Summer Edition): Aug. 17, 2007

Michael Adler, Anthropology, discussed the SMU-in-Taos program as a featured guest on KTAO 101.9 FM Radio July 24, 2007.

Al Armendariz, Environmental and Civil Engineering, wrote an op-ed, “We Can’t Wish Our Smog Away,” published in The Dallas Morning News July 25, 2007.

simpsons-cover-125.jpgAlan Brown and Chris Logan, Psychology, have edited The Psychology of the Simpsons: D’oh!, a collection of essays by professional psychologists exploring “the functions and dysfunctions of the show’s characters.” The book was published in July 2007 by Independent Publishers Group.

Steve DePaul, International Center, was featured in a Robert Miller article on SMU’s Education Abroad program in The Dallas Morning News Aug. 5, 2007.

Shubha Ghosh, Law, spoke with CBS-11 TV about the impact on consumers of a June 2007 Supreme Court ruling that struck down a nearly 100-year-old Texas ban on price fixing.

Rick Halperin, History, guided SMU students, faculty and local community members on a tour of the landmarks of apartheid in South Africa Aug. 2-12. Halperin, director of the SMU Human Rights Education Program and chair of the Amnesty International USA Board, took the group to Soweto, scene of widespread rioting in 1976; Cape Town’s District Six neighborhood, where residents were forced out of their homes to create a “whites only” zone in 1965; and the Robben Island Prison, where Nelson Mandela was held as a political prisoner for 27 years.

Kathy Hargrove, Education and Human Development, discussed how children can be taught to think like geniuses with WFAA-TV Channel 8 Aug. 14, 2007.

James Hollifield, Political Science, was a featured guest along with former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich on the KERA-TV talk show “McCuistion” in a July 29, 2007 episode on “Ideology, Politics and Partisanship.”

Daniel Howard, Marketing, discussed the origins and usefulness of the “personal branding” trend with The Dallas Morning News July 15, 2007.

evan-almighty-160.jpgRobert Hunt, Theology, discussed the film “Evan Almighty” and the enduring appeal of the Noah story in the June 16, 2007 edition of The Dallas Morning News.

Jeffrey Kahn, Law, discussed with KERA 90.1 and National Public Radio the Dallas-based federal trial involving the Holy Land Foundation, a Muslim charity accused of ties to terrorism, for which jury selection began July 16, 2007.

Glenn Linden, History, has cowritten Disunion, War, Defeat and Recovery in Alabama: The Journal of Augustus Benners, 1850-1885 with his wife, Virginia Linden. The book, a chronicle of more than three decades in the life of a plantation owner in ante- and postbellum Alabama, was published in July 2007 by Mercer University Press.

Bridge supportsGeoffrey Orsak, School of Engineering, talked with CBS-11 TV and CBS News’ “The Early Show” Aug. 3, 2007, about the United States’ crisis-level backlog of structurally deficient bridges.

Tony Pederson, Journalism, discussed the ramifications of media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s recent purchase of The Wall Street Journal with SMU News Aug. 5, 2007.

Anne Peterson, DeGolyer Library, spoke with U.S. News & World Report about controversies surrounding the work of Civil War photographer Mathew Brady for the magazine’s July 2, 2007 cover story, “Secrets of the Civil War.” In addition, she gave a presentation on “Alexander Gardner and the Photographically Illustrated Book” to the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing (SHARP) at its annual conference in Minneapolis July 11-14, 2007.

Kamal Saggi, Economics, has been named Dedman Distinguished Collegiate Professor of Economics.

SMU Panhellenic has been awarded the National Panhellenic Conference Progress award for campuses with 6-10 chapters for the 2005-2007 biennium. The honor is presented to one college Panhellenic that “has shown significant strides related to member education, new member programming, recruitment, and scholarship.”

Dallas immigration rallyHarold Stanley, Political Science, spoke with Mercedes Olivera of The Dallas Morning News about immigration issues and Latino voters for the July 8, 2007 edition.

Rev. Page A. Thomas, Bridwell Library, was the subject of an article in The Dallas Morning News July 21, 2007, recognizing his 46 years with Bridwell — the longest term of service in a single posting for any Methodist minister.

Gregory Warden, Art History, and his work at an ancient Etruscan settlement in Poggia Colla, Italy, were the subjects of a Robert Miller column in the Aug. 12, 2007 edition of The Dallas Morning News.

Jerry White, Caruth Institute for Entrepreneurship, discussed how the credit crunch is affecting small businesses with The Dallas Morning News Aug. 11, 2007.

Matthew Wilson, Political Science, spoke with Reuters in June 2007 about the Religious Right and Jerry Falwell’s legacy, and with The Dallas Morning News about Tom Leppert’s mayoral victory in the June 17, 2007 edition.

August 17, 2007|For the Record|
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