Spanking a child is a contentious issue in our society right now and rightly so.
On one hand, you have people who say spanking is wrong because it teaches a kid that “might makes right” or neglects the actual hard work of teaching a kid right or wrong. And concerns abound about whether the practice is too rooted in taking one’s anger out on a child who misbehaves. Back in the 80s, comedienne Roseanne Barr had a joke about how they say you should never hit a kid in anger, but what are you going to do, smack them when they are happy?
On the other side are parents who worry a soft stance on discipline and, of course, spanking, is raising a generation of disrespectful and lazy brats who have no incentive to listen to adult guidance. But as the practice has become more polarizing, most spanking or other forms of physical discipline has moved behind closed doors … but not all.
Researchers who have in the past observed parents or caregivers in labs decided to take their study public to see if parents and caregivers who did not realize they were being watched treated children differently than they did in a lab setting. And it turns out that spanking in public is not as uncommon as you may believe.
Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing led by Dr. Kathy Stansbury assessed just over 100 instances of public discipline involving children between the ages of 3 and 5. At the end of the study, it was determined that 23 percent of the interactions involved negative touch, which was defined as spanking, slapping, arm pulling, or pinching.
Stansbury commented on the contrast between discipline when parents and caregivers know someone is watching and when they believe that they are not being closely observed:
“I was very surprised to see what many people consider a socially undesirable behavior done by nearly a quarter of the caregivers … I have also seen hundreds of kids and their parents in a lab setting and never once witnessed any of this behavior.”
After recording everything they saw and analyzing the date, the researchers determined that 23 percent of the youngsters received “negative touch” including arm pulling, pinching, slapping, and spanking as discipline in public places such as restaurants or parks.
The spanking in public study was published in the August 3 issue of Behavior and Social Issues.
What do you think about spanking a child in public?