corporal punishment, George Holden, spanking, SMU

The independent news wire service UPI covered the research of SMU psychologist George W. Holden about the controversial practice of corporal punishment. The article published Jan. 29, “Parents can change mind on spanking if told it harms a child.”

Holden, an expert in families and child development, is a founding member of the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children, at

He was recently elected president of Dallas’ oldest child abuse prevention agency, Family Compass.

Most recently his research showed that parents who favor spanking changed their minds after they were briefly exposed to summaries of research detailing the negative impact of corporal punishment on children. Holden, who considers spanking a public health problem, said the research indicates that parents’ attitudes about spanking could economically, quickly and effectively be changed to consider alternative disciplinary methods.

Holden’s earlier research provided a unique real-time look at spanking in a way that’s never before been studied. In a study of 37 families, mothers voluntarily recorded their evening interactions with their young children over the course of six days, including incidents of corporal punishment.

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U.S. adults exposed to research on spanking showing subsequent child behavioral problems may change their discipline methods, researchers say.

Child psychologist George Holden of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who favors alternatives to corporal punishment, wanted to see if parents’ positive views toward spanking could be reversed if they were made aware of the existing research.

Holden and three SMU colleagues used a simple, fast, inexpensive method to briefly expose 118 college students to short research summaries that detailed spanking’s negative impact.

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.

Nearly 75 percent of the study subjects said after seeing the research they thought less favorably of spanking.

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