PRNewswire, May 28, 1999

Oklahoma Lawmakers Send the Wrong Message about Spanking, Says Children's Institute International

LOS ANGELES, May 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The Oklahoma State Legislature is sending the wrong message when it urges parents to "spank, switch or paddle" their wayward children in the wake of the Columbine High School killings. In fact, a majority of Americans believe some of what the Oklahoma Legislature is condoning is child abuse, according to a new national poll released today by Children's Institute International (CII).

"There is a wealth of research data showing that violent parenting produces violent children; so does negligent parenting," says Dr. Steve Ambrose, clinical psychologist and director of research at CII. "We are not saying parents shouldn't discipline their children, but there are more appropriate and effective ways than hitting them. Violence teaches violence."

The Oklahoma House voted Tuesday 96-4 to support a bill that now goes to Governor Frank Keating to be signed or vetoed. The legislation will insert a line into the state child abuse statutes reminding parents that state law gives them the right to use "ordinary force," including a spanking, paddling or whipping with a switch, to discipline children.

But according to the new national poll released today by CII, a majority of Americans would consider a portion of the Oklahoma Legislature's bill to be child abuse. While the majority of those surveyed believe children sometimes need to be spanked, they draw the line at leaving marks or using a belt. In situations where marks are left on a two-year-old, 60% believe this constitutes child abuse, and 74% say it is child abuse when a belt is introduced to discipline a two-year-old. While it is slightly more accepted, a majority also said it's child abuse if spanking leaves marks on a 12-year-old, 53%, or a 12-year-old is spanked with a belt, 54%.

The new study conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland for CII found that 82% of the adults surveyed were spanked as children and that 55% of Americans believe a "good, hard spanking" is sometimes necessary.

"It's concerning that spanking remains such a part of American culture, in view of scientific evidence demonstrating its ill effects. This suggests the need for continued public education," says Ambrose.

On a more positive note, the poll clearly shows parents are searching for alternatives. A majority cited non-physical approaches as the most effective. For example: - Only 8% of adults believe spanking is the best way to discipline a child.

- Only 10% of Southerners, which include Oklahoma residents, believe spanking is the best form of discipline and 29% believe speaking with the child is the best form of discipline.

- Speaking with the child is preferred by 31% of all Americans.

- Using time outs is preferred by 19% of all Americans.

- Removing privileges is preferred by 19% of all Americans. "Oklahoma lawmakers are sending the wrong message. It's irresponsible. We know from our poll results that parents are searching for alternatives to spanking. Lawmakers would be better served spending their time finding the money to fund parent education programs- not laws that promote child abuse," says Mary Emmons, chief executive officer, CII.

The poll found that seven in 10, 71%, say they would support tougher penalties against child abuse, and a large majority, 86%, would support parent education courses taught in schools.

The survey of 981 randomly selected adults was commissioned by CII to frame the discussions and debates for its second national forum, "Imagine a Brighter Future: Solutions for Children in Crisis," which gets under way June 2-4 at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. The forum features more than 50 specialists and 600 attendees from children's organizations, foundations, government, education, law enforcement, the religious community and business.

The full results of the national poll will be released at the conference on Thursday, June 3, at 11 a.m./PST. Other featured sessions at the conference include a presentation by Dr. James Garbarino about why children kill, followed by a panel discussion about what to do with children who kill. Noted researcher Dr. Bruce Perry will also present on early childhood trauma and the origins of violence.

Rewarding positive behavior, using logical consequences and establishing time outs are just a few of the alternatives to spanking provided in a fact sheet produced by CII, now available to parents. The fact sheet called "Break the Spanking Habit" can be found on CII's Web site at

The survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, Inc., for Children's Institute International. Interviews were conducted with 981 adults nationwide. All calls were conducted from a central phone facility in Denver, CO, during late April through mid-May, 1999. The margin of error is +/-3.5% for the general sample. For more than 90 years, CII has served Los Angeles-area children and their families with a special focus on the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect, as well as advocating for policies that protect children. Every year, more than 3,500 families receive CII's services, including therapeutic day care, family preservation, substance abuse recovery, foster care, emergency shelter, domestic violence intervention and child abuse treatment. CII has also trained more than 45,000 professionals from as far away as Japan and the Ukraine.

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