Spanking and Aggression - Survey Tracks Child, Parent Conduct
By David Crary, Associated Press National Writer, Press, June 5, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) - Widespread parental misconceptions about discipline and behavior may result in a growing number of overly aggressive, easily frustrated children, according to experts who surveyed more than 1,000 parents with youngsters 6 and under.

The nationwide survey, released Wednesday, found that 61 percent of the parents condone spanking as a regular form of punishment for young children despite research indicating corporal punishment can be harmful.

Fifty-seven percent of the parents said even a 6-month-old child can be spoiled, a belief the survey coordinators said is incorrect.

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

Pruett is president of Zero To Three, a nonprofit child-development organization that sponsored the survey along with Civitas, another nonprofit group, and Brio Corp., a toymaker.

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.

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.

Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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