We Must Stop Hitting Children!
Part 4 Approval of Hitting is Declining
By Kerby T. Alvy, Ph.D.
Belief in the utility and even necessity of physical punishment as a method of child rearing has been strong through generations of Americans from at least the early 17th century to the present day.
Now, four hundred years later at the beginning of the 21st century, American approval of physical punishment by parents is showing signs of decline.
In the 1960s, 94 percent of adults were in favor of physical punishment. According to the General Social Surveys (GSS), which asked whether “a good hard spanking is sometimes necessary to discipline a child,” the percentage of those agreeing has declined to be around 66 percent by 2014.
There are regional differences, with the South having the highest percent of agreement and New England the lowest.
Religious differences also exist, with Catholics and Protestants agreeing in the high 60s and low 70 percents. Jewish respondents had the highest percent of disagreement (59 percent) and the lowest agreement that spanking children is sometimes necessary (41 percent).
Child development experts and medical boards including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association almost uniformly oppose the practice. They cite research dating to the 1990s showing that it can lead to aggressive and harmful behaviors in children.
It is clear that although Americans remain more in favor of physical punishment than Europeans, Americans’ approval of physical punishment of children by parents has declined gradually over the last 40 years. At the same time, knowledgeable health authorities are clear in their disapproval.
Do you approve or are you among those who do not?
We encourage and welcome your written comments at the end of this article.
The NEW Confident Parenting is a book that discusses many of the issues surrounding the use of physical punishment and offers an entire program for raising children without ever having to use physical punishment.
The Effective Black Parenting and Los Ninos Bien Educados parenting programs provide similar guidance from cultural perspectives on hitting children.