US parents continue to use spanking despite the evidence against it
May 22, 2015
The majority of American parents still use spanking to discipline their children despite overwhelming evidence that it is ineffective and detrimental. In practice, research findings are often no match for cultural norms and closely-held beliefs about the physical punishment of children. Kimberly Kopko, director of the BCTR's Parenting in Context Initiative, comments on the subject in a recent article. The specific case she refers to below involves a Liberian native living in the US who "hot peppered" his two young sons (details in the full article, link below).
"There has to be appreciation and understanding of culture, but if you're harming a child, you're harming a child," said Dr. Kimberly Kopko, who runs Cornell University's Parenting in Context initiative.
As for cultural norms, Dr. Kopko said, "I do appreciate and understand the cultural issues around those sorts of things, however, you're talking about a Liberian family that was living in the U.S. If that family was living in Sweden, it would likewise not be legal."
Sweden banned spanking in 1979, and 45 nations have since followed suit, most of them in Europe and South America.
America's a different story, though.
"We're very individualistic and private, and so we're not run like a European country where a lot of this is more out in the open," Dr. Kopko said. "I think many Americans take the view of, 'What happens in my home is my business, it's not yours.'"
On a policy level, authorities here are more reluctant to step in and tell parents how to parent, she said.
"I'm persuaded by data, and the data has consistently told us, consistently, that spanking is not good," she said. "Now research versus personal belief? You can line up a thousand research studies in front of some parents who believe that spanking is good, and they're still going to believe spanking is good."
The Parenting in Context Initiative provides research-based resources for parent educators and develops new curricula to enhance existing programs. They also provide training and tools useful in evaluating parenting programs. Their web site has some resources intended directly for parents, including Parent Pages, which summarize the latest research, and information on parenting programs in New York State.