Journalist Scott Kaufman with the internet news site The Raw Story covered the research of SMU psychologist George W. Holden about the controversial practice of corporal punishment. The article, “Spanking doesn’t work, but average 4-year-old is spanked 936 times per year anyway,” published April 16.
Holden, an expert in families and child development, is a founding member of the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children, at endhittingusa.org.
He was recently elected president of Dallas’ oldest child abuse prevention agency, Family Compass.
Most recently Holden’s research found that children misbehaved within 10 minutes of being spanked and that parents don’t follow the guidelines for spanking that pro-spanking advocates claim are necessary for spanking to be effective.
Other recent 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.
By Scott Kaufman
The Raw Story
New research published in the Journal of Family Psychology indicates not only that parents punish their children more frequently than they admit, but that the form of the punishment — spanking — is an ineffective means of behavioral modification.
The study analyzed real-time audio recordings of parents interacting with their children. The parents had been given guidelines: spank infrequently, only for serious misbehavior, and only as a last resort.
Thirty-three families were recorded for between four and six evenings, and in 90 percent of the incidents involving corporal punishment, the immediate cause was “noncompliance,” such as a refusal to stop sucking fingers, eating improperly, leaving the house without asking permission. In 49 percent of the spanking incidents, the parent sounded angry prior to initiating the spanking.
“The recordings show that most parents responded either impulsively or emotionally, rather than being intentional with their discipline,” lead author George Holden, a psychology professor at Southern Methodist University, said. On average, it only required 30 seconds for nonviolent discipline to escalate to corporal punishment.
“From the audio, we heard parents hitting their children for the most extraordinarily mundane offenses, typically violations of social conventions,” Holden added. “Also, corporal punishment wasn’t being used as a last resort. On average, parents hit or spanked just half a minute after the conflict began.”
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