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Apparently, the answer is yes. Although you would think that most moms and dads these days wouldn't think of laying a finger on their child, a new study -- the first ever to actually record parents spanking their kids -- suggests that physical punishment is sadly still going strong.
The research looked at families in Dallas, Texas, who made voluntary audio recordings of interactions with their children. During that time it seems like there was a whole lot of spanking going on -- and often for minor misbehavior. One mom spanked her 3-year-old son 11 times for bickering with his sibling while another mama hit her 5-year-old when he refused to pick up his room. What’s even more startling? Study author George Holden, a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, initially set out to study yelling, but he heard so many incidents of physical punishment that he decided to change his focus.
Past research on spanking suggests that while it may be effective in the short term, it sends the wrong message (“Mommy’s hitting you, but you should never hit anyone”) and, if it occurs frequently, can potentially cause lifelong trauma. But as a fellow mom, I know you’re not thinking about that when your kid shatters the glass end table or punches you because you won’t read another bedtime book. (Yes, true stories!)
Earlier this week, after a Texas judge gave a mother probation for spanking her child, we asked our Facebook fans and the iVillage community what they thought about corporal punishment, and the reaction was heated and divided. Some parents were against it:
"'Violence breeds violence’ (Mahatma Gandhi). If you have no other common sense response to a child's misbehavior than to lash out physically, call Nanny 911 and see how she does it. I've never hit my son, who turned out at 13 to be the most considerate, obedient, honest, loving, respectful and well-mannered kid I've ever seen! Hitting is wrong, evil and leads to a fear-based relationship instead of a healthy trusting one." -- Sophie
"Spanking only teaches children that it's okay to hit when something doesn't go their way. Children under the age of two should never be spanked as they do not have the cognitive ability to understand the concept. And why in the world would you want your child to be afraid of you?" -- Rachel
"I don’t want my children afraid of me; I want them to feel loved and know that I am there for them in a positive way. I remember getting spanked as a child once in a while, and I still hate it to this day that it happened. There are good alternatives to spanking or hitting your child nowadays." -- Danielle
But more parents seemed to be for it -- although by and large they made a distinction between beating, which they didn’t condone, and spanking.
"Look at how kids were back when spanking was allowed and how they turned out. Now look at how kids are today when spanking is frowned upon. Maybe it should have never gone out of style." -- Tammy
"I don't think there is anything wrong with putting a little healthy fear inside a child. I see nothing wrong with a swat on the butt." -- Cameo
"Used very, very sparingly and with great discernment [spanking is okay]. Applied with love and prayer, you would discover that spankings are a rare event. It should only occur once or twice in a lifetime." -- Monica