Texas leads the nation in cases of corporal punishment, says Dr. George Holden, SMU.
Unfair Park journalist Emily Mathis with the Dallas Observer interviewed SMU psychologist George W. Holden about the controversial practice of corporal punishment in the context of the Adrian Peterson case. Mathis’ story, “The DeSoto School District Paddled Students 227 Times Last Year, but Won’t Say How or Why,” published Sept. 17.
Holden also appeared on the NPR Public radio show “On Point” with host Tom Ashbrook as part of a guest panel of experts talking about corporal punishment in light of the Adrian Peterson case. The segment, “Kids, Discipline, And The Adrian Peterson Debate” aired Sept. 17.
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, “Real-time audio of corporal punishment,” 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, “Parents less likely to spank,” 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, “Corporal punishment: Mother’s self-recorded audio,” 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 Emily Mathis
The internet has gone wild over the past few days with news that Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings is facing child abuse charges after disciplining his 4-year-old son with a switch, and was separately accused of leaving a scar on another 4-year-old son’s face. A native of Palestine, Texas, Peterson’s charge has spurred an impassioned debate between corporal punishment advocates and fierce opponents. But in nearby DeSoto ISD, the practice is a long-standing tradition, and one that is shied away from public eyes.
Last school year, DeSoto ISD administered corporal punishment 227 times. DISD spokeswoman Beth Trimble points out that some of those kids were repeat offenders, so the actual number of children paddled is unclear. Nevertheless, the incident is indicative of a continuing trend across Texas public schools for corporal punishment. According to Dr. George Holden, a psychologist and family violence researcher at SMU, Texas leads the nation in cases of corporal punishment.
“The most common reason parents approve is that it was done to them as children. They turned out okay, so they do it to their kids. It’s an easy technique to use to get immediate behavior change from the child,” says Holden. Still, specific data is often unclear for the number of kids physically punished in Texas schools. “It’s also something that school districts don’t want to advertise or draw attention to,” says Holden. “And students are embarrassed.”
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