Four in Five Americans Believe Parents Spanking Their Children is Sometimes Appropriate

Almost nine in ten U.S. adults were spanked as a child; two-thirds of parents have spanked their child

Sep 26, 2013, 05:00 ET from Harris Interactive

NEW YORK, Sept. 26, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- To spank or not to spank? It's an age old question that every parent must face. Some parents may start off with the notion that "I will never spank my child!" – but does that hold up? Not really, as eight in ten Americans (81%) say that parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate, while 19% believe it is never appropriate. Among those with a child in the household, almost eight in ten (78%) believe that spanking is sometimes appropriate. Interestingly, in 1995 (the last time The Harris Poll asked this question) 87% of Americans believed that spanking was sometimes appropriate – so this has gone down slightly.

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These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,286 adults surveyed online between August 14 and 19, 2013 by Harris Interactive. (Full findings, including data tables, can be found here)

One reason for this decline may be perceptions among the youngest generation. Seven in ten Echo Boomers (72%) believe spanking is sometimes appropriate, compared to 82% of Gen Xers, 85% of Baby Boomers and 88% of Matures. Besides age differences, there are also regional differences. Those in the South (86%) and Midwest (83%) are more likely than those in the West (76%) and East (75%) to believe spanking is sometimes appropriate. There is one group more divided on the subject: among those who were not spanked as a child, half say spanking is sometimes appropriate (50%) and half say it is never appropriate (50%).

Spanked? Do you spank?
Among parents, two-thirds (67%) say they have spanked their child or children while one-third (33%) have not. In 1995, four in five parents (80%) said they had spanked their children while 19% said they had not. Again there is a generational divide, as just half of Echo Boomers who are parents (50%) have spanked their child, compared to 70% of Gen Xers, 72% of Baby Boomers and 76% of Matures. Among those who were themselves spanked as a child, 73% have spanked their children; by contrast, just 25% of parents who were not spanked as a child have spanked their own children.

Almost nine in ten Americans (86%) say they were themselves spanked as a child, the same as in 1995. Baby Boomers are the most likely to have been spanked (92%), followed by Matures (88%) and Gen Xers (87%); at 77%, Echo Boomers are the group least likely to say they were spanked. But, looking back, just 34% of those who were spanked say they believe there were times when their parents were quite wrong to spank them, while 66% say there were not.

Also among those who were spanked, the punishment may not have been too severe. When asked if they were ever spanked with too much violence, one in five (21%) say they were and 79% say they were not spanked with too much violence.

Then there is the punishment one should have gotten, but didn't. Half of Americans (51%) say there were times when they should have been spanked but wasn't and half (49%) say there were not.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between August 14 to 19, 2013 among 2,286 adults (aged 18 and over). Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, Harris Interactive avoids the words "margin of error" as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in the Harris Interactive panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of Harris Interactive.

Q1855, 860, 865, 870, 875, 880, 885

The Harris Poll® #67, September 26, 2013
By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll and Public Relations, Harris Interactive

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