Corporal Punishment in America
The term corporal punishment means the intentional infliction of pain on the body for purposes of punishment and includes slapping, hitting with objects, pinching, shaking and forcing to stand for long periods of time (Epoch 1). Family researchers define corporal punishment as " the use of physical force aimed at causing children to experience pain but not injury, for the purposes of correction and control of youthful behavior" (Day 83). Spanking is one form of physical or corporal punishment (Epoch 1).
The general acceptance, and sometimes support, of corporal punishment as a method of discipline is an aspect of the American culture (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin 61).
Children are abused, in part, because they are unable to defend themselves against stronger and more powerful adults (Barnett, Miller-Perrin, Perrin 61). Researchers only recently have recognized that spanking is used primarily with young children and that the incidence and severity of spanking often diminishes by the time children are 8-10 years of age (Day 80).
Studies of the incidence and intensity of spanking often provide evidence that most parents have spanked their children. About 90% of parents in the United States report having spanked their children (Day 80).
In a research project done using the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, researchers examined the antecedents of parents’ spanking behavior. This study represents an important step forward in understanding the profile of parents who spank their children.
Even though the study had little theoretical orientation from which spanking could be predicted, it showed that younger mothers spank much more frequently than older mothers; that younger children are spanked more than older children, and that higher levels of socioeconomic status are associated with the decreases in spanking. It also showed that mothers with lower education, mothers living in the south and mothers who are African American reported increased levels of corporal punishment; and that mothers reporting higher levels of religiosity also spanked more (Day 80).
Consistent use of corporal punishment has been an indicator of less effective parenting and is commonly linked to socialization out comes such as delinquency, low self-esteem, and social incompetence (Day 81).
The child’s temperament and personality directly affect the parents ability to employ non physical discipline strategies. Consequently, children who are perceived as difficult are more likely to be spanked than those who are not perceived as difficult (Day 81).
Older parents who have more education will have more experience raising children, will know more about alternative and nonpunitive strategies of discipline, and will have a greater sense of personal maturity and self-control, all of which may reduce inclinations to spank (Day 81).
There is a widely held tradition in western civilization that "sparing the rod spoils...