Time.com covered the corporal punishment research of SMU psychologist George W. Holden, a professor in the Psychology Department, and Paul Williamson, an SMU doctoral student in psychology.

The online magazine’s family and parenting reporter, Bonnie Rochman, interviewed Holden for her June 28 “Healthland” column.

The research provides 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, said Holden.

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By Bonnie Rochman

It’s not P.C. to admit you spank your child. But nearly 40 moms have gone a step further, recording themselves hitting and slapping their kids as part of a new study on how parents and children interact.

They didn’t know they were going to be in a study about spanking per se. Researchers have to be careful when presenting their proposed area of study to potential participants — too much information can lead people to alter their normal behavior, which would skew results. So when George Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University who has published five books on parenting and child development, went to day-care centers in Dallas to recruit parents, he divulged only that he wanted to collect data about naturally occurring parent-child interaction.

In fact, Holden didn’t even know he’d be studying spanking. He originally set out to study yelling, via voluntary audio recordings of parents conducting life at home — the pedestrian stuff of parenting like meal prep, bath time and lights out.

Not all parents who volunteered were accepted. Researchers eliminated those who reported during a screening interview that they never yelled at home. “There weren’t many,” notes Holden, who presented the research this month in Dallas at the Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline.

Here’s the twist: in the course of analyzing the data collected from 37 families — 36 mothers and one father, all of whom recorded up to 36 hours of audio in six days of study — researchers heard the sharp cracks and dull thuds of spanking, followed in some cases by minutes of crying. They’d inadvertently captured evidence of corporal punishment, as well as the tense moments before and the resolution after, leading researchers to believe they’d amassed the first-ever cache of real-time spanking data.

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