The Washington Post: Parents still spank their kids for trivial reasons even when researchers are listening in

Washington Post, Abby Phillip, spanking, SMU, George Holden,

Journalist Abby Phillip with The Washington Post covered the research of SMU psychologist George W. Holden about the controversial practice of corporal punishment. Her story, “Parents still spank their kids for trivial reasons even when researchers are listening in,” published April 22.

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

Holden 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.

Read the full story, with audio.

EXCERPT:

by Abby Phillip
The Washington Post

With the culture war over spanking still well underway, you might expect that parents who adhere to the practice are starting to feel the stigma.

If they are, it’s not stopping some of them from doling out discipline with the palm of their hands even when researchers are listening in.

A new study in the American Psychological Association Journal of Family Psychology conducted by researches at Southern Methodist University used audio recording devices to track the behavior of parents with their kids.

Mothers were asked to wear Olympus digital voice recorders on their arms in a sport pouch (not exactly an easy thing to forget about) and turn it on when they returned from work, and back off again when their child fell asleep. After six days, 45 percent of the families studied had recorded incidents of corporal punishment, and some started on the very first night.

You can listen to some examples below, but they range from fairly innocuous infractions like “messing with” the pages of a book, to playing with a stove.

The study is considered a preliminary investigation of a potential model for further research that doesn’t just rely on self-reported information that can be riddled with inconsistencies and inaccuracies.

For example, who remembers what how many times they disciplined their child over the course of a year?

Southern Methodist University Professor George Holden, the lead on this project, explained that they solicited parents for a study that was specifically focused on recording yelling behavior as it occurred naturally in the home.

They found 56 people willing to participate, and of those, they studied 33. By the time these mothers returned from work and began dealing with their children, worrying about the recorder strapped to their arm was the least of their worries.

“A lot of parents, particularly in the south, think of it as a good technique to use. They were reared that way so they’ve developed this fundamental belief that spanking is the way to teach people right or wrong,” Holden said. “My guess is they weren’t bashful about using it.”

Read the full story, with audio.

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SMU is a nationally ranked private university in Dallas founded 100 years ago. Today, SMU enrolls nearly 11,000 students who benefit from the academic opportunities and international reach of seven degree-granting schools. For more information see www.smu.edu.

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