, October 5, 2000

Most adults approve of spanking children, despite experts' recommendations

In this story: 'We run the risk society will pay'
Many parents have unrealistic expectations

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Despite numerous recommendations from experts against spanking young children, a majority of U.S. adults questioned in a recent survey said that they approve of the practice.

The child-development survey, released on Wednesday, found that 61 percent of the adults who responded condone spanking as a regular form of punishment. Fifty-seven percent said even a six-month-old can be spoiled, a belief that survey coordinators said is incorrect.

"Spare the rod, spoil the child, that's where we base our spanking," one parent told CNN.

Another parent said, "That's the way I was brought up. That's the way it works for me. A lot of these kids today, they don't get that."

'We run the risk society will pay'

The survey was sponsored by Zero To Three, a nonprofit child-development organization, along with Civitas, another nonprofit group, and Brio Corp., a toymaker.

"The big story here is that babies have emotional needs and if we ignore that we run the risk society will pay," said Matthew Melmed of Zero To Three. "When parents use force, the only message their young children are getting is that big people are mean and it's OK to use force," Melmed said.

Previous research suggests that spanking can lead to violent, anti-social behavior such as cheating and acting up in school. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently called for an all-out ban on spanking at school.

Dr. Kyle Pruett, a professor of psychiatry at Yale University's Child Study Center and president of Zero To Three, said, "If you don't pick up a baby when he is crying, you can build up his levels of stress and distress. Responding to your child's needs is not spoiling."

Pruett said the surveyed parents showed an encouraging grasp of some key principles -- that emotional closeness is of vital importance and that experiences even in the first few months of life can have a significant effect.

Many parents have unrealistic expectations

However, he was concerned about findings that suggested many parents had unrealistic expectations of behavior -- for example, expecting that a child of 15 months should be able to share toys.

"We're potentially raising overly aggressive children who react to situations with intimidation and bullying, instead of cooperation and understanding; children who won't be able to tolerate frustration, wait their turn or respect the needs of others," Pruett said.

Ron Lally, co-director of the San Francisco-based Center for Child and Family Studies, said he was surprised that so many parents condoned the spanking of young children.

"Why would anyone spank an infant or toddler?" Lally asked. "There is nothing he or she can learn from it other than to distrust bigger and more powerful people."

The child-development survey was conducted in June and July by DYG Inc., headed by pollster Daniel Yankelovich. In all, 3,000 adults were surveyed, including 1,066 parents with children 6 or under. The margin of error, for the responses from parents, was 3.1 percentage points.

CNN Parenting Correspondent Pat Etheridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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