PRNewswire, June 3, 1999

Breaking the Spanking Habit

LOS ANGELES, June 3 /PRNewswire/ -- A new national poll released today by Children's Institute International (CII) reveals that a majority of adults believe that children sometimes need a "good, hard spanking."

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 worrisome that spanking remains such a part of the American culture, in view of scientific evidence demonstrating its ill effects," says Dr. Steve Ambrose, clinical psychologist and director of research at CII. "This suggests the need for continued public education. There is a wealth of research data showing that violent parenting produces violent children; so does negligent parenting. We are not saying parents shouldn't discipline their children, but there are more appropriate and effective ways than hitting them."

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 is child abuse if spanking leaves marks on a 12-year-old (53%) or a 12-year-old is spanked with a belt (54%). 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. Armed with the results of its poll, CII condemned the recent actions of the Oklahoma State Legislature after its members urged parents to "spank, switch or paddle" their wayward children in the wake of the Columbine High School killings.

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

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 today 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. 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, "Break the Spanking Habit," can be found on CII's Web site at Other key survey findings include:

-- Leaving marks seen as child abuse. A majority (71%) do not believe spanking a disobedient two-year-old with a hand and not leaving marks is child abuse. However, in situations where marks are left, 60% believe this constitutes child abuse, and 74% say it is child abuse when a belt is introduced to discipline the two-year-old child.

-- Spanking views vary. Slightly more than half of the general population (55%) think it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking.

-- Men are 11% more likely than women to hold this view.

-- 64% of Southerners believe spanking is sometimes necessary.

-- 57% of African-Americans believe it is sometimes necessary to spank a child, compared with 56% of Caucasians and 53% of Hispanics.

-- The farm states are the only region of the country in which adults are as likely to say that spanking is the best way to discipline a child (24%) compared with those who say that explaining the problem to the child is the best way (23%).

-- Reports of potentially abusive behavior common. Almost nine in 10 adults (89%) say they were yelled at by their parents, 82% were spanked, 19% witnessed one parent strike the other, and 27% say they have been struck hard enough as a child to result in an injury or bruise.

-- Wide support for ways to combat abuse. Seven in 10 (71%) say they would support tougher penalties against child abuse; a large majority (86%) would support parent education classes taught in schools; and more than half of the population (55%) would support a specific proposal to fund child-related programs from an inflated tobacco tax, such as Proposition 10 in California.

-- Counseling recommended remedy. When asked about the appropriate remedy for acts they believe constituted child abuse, many adults indicated counseling was the best option.

-- 61% say adults who spank a disobedient two-year-old with a belt should receive counseling.

-- 71% believe counseling should be recommended or required if an adult yells at a child and calls him or her names.

-- 77% say if one parent strikes another in anger in front of the child, counseling should be recommend or required. The survey was conducted by Penn, Schoen & Berland, Inc. for Children's Institute International. Interviews were conducted with 981 adults nationwide. All telephone 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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