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Is Spanking Children Poised For a Comeback?

As any good flagellator knows, every action produces an equal and opposite reaction. So at a time when celebrities can threaten to have you arrested for yelling at your kids, here is (very unscientific) evidence that spanking is poised for a comeback: released results of its discipline survey earlier this week. Of the more than 1,300 moms surveyed, 81 percent were spanked as kids and 49 percent admitted to hitting their own children...

Only one parent who responded to my query wasn't surprised by the numbers. "The number is about what I would guess," says Katherine, a San Francisco parent. "I think that more parents would like to NOT spank, and I think that in moments of frustration, anger or fear many go to how they were disciplined. What they 'plan' to do goes out the window and they just respond with what they know."

I believe even corporal punishment supporters will agree that the situation described by Katherine is the classic definition of how not to hit children. But it raises the question of stated preference vs. revealed preference. When you combine that 50 percent-minus-one showing for people who say they spank and the now widely distributed stigmatizing of corporal punishment, it's probable that a substantial majority of parents hit, whether they admit it or not.

Supporting this opinion is the wide discrepancy between the 81 percent who recall being spanked as kids and the 49 percent who remember spanking their own kids. Statisticians may have other ways to account for this improbable-seeming decline, but I would suggest reporting bias. Who is more likely to remember a spanking: The parent whose mind is already full of public concerns, household management, and other adult crap; or the kid who gets whacked?

And finally, there are the Baby Center comment threads ("I agree with the first lady who spanks her children, children now a day are getting nastier and more disrespectful towards authorities and it starts from US!"), and the site's reader poll, which reveals that 69 percent of readers who were spanked have gone on to spank, while even a hefty 48 percent of those who were not spanked have become out of the closet spankers.

Back in the 1990s (you should have seen the Atlantic Ocean back then!), there was a very short-lived knockoff site called Since then I've been trying to get Webster to recognize "spanq" as the better and more Quranic spelling. If you agree, spanq it forward.

Read the debate on Spanking an Acceptable Form of Discipline?


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