Attitudes Toward Spanking

Publication Date:

Oct 06, 2018

Key facts about attitudes toward spanking

  • In 2016, 76 percent of men and 66 percent of women ages 18 to 65 agreed that a child sometimes should be spanked. For both groups, this represents a decline from 1986 proportions who agreed (84 and 82 percent, respectively).
  • Non-Hispanic black males (86 percent) and females (77 percent) endorse spanking at higher rates than their counterparts of other races. Rates are lower among Hispanic and non-Hispanic white men (76 and 74 percent, respectively) and women (61 and 65 percent, respectively).
  • Individuals with higher educational attainment are less likely to agree that children sometimes should be spanked: 65 and 53 percent of males and females, respectively, with a college degree agreed, compared with 70 and 65 percent of males and females, respectively, without a high school degree.

Trends in attitudes toward spanking

From 1986 to 2016, the proportion of women who agreed or strongly agreed that it is sometimes necessary to give a child a “good, hard spanking” dropped by 20 percent (from 82 to 66 percent) (Appendix 2). Approval among men dropped 6 percentage points from 1986 to 1991 (from 84 to 78 percent), but has since remained steady, and was at 76 percent in 2016 (Appendix 1).

Differences by gender

In 2016, men were more likely than women to agree or strongly agree that it is sometimes necessary to give a child a “good, hard spanking” (76 and 66 percent, respectively) (appendices 1 and 2).

Differences by race and Hispanic origin

Typically, non-Hispanic black and Hispanic women are more likely than non-Hispanic white women to agree or strongly agree that spanking is sometimes necessary. However, in 2016, 77 percent of non-Hispanic black women agreed, compared with 61 and 65 percent, respectively, of Hispanic and non-Hispanic white women (Appendix 2). Results were similar among males, with 86, 76, and 74 percent of non-Hispanic black males, Hispanic males, and non-Hispanic white males, respectively, agreeing that a child sometimes needs a “good, hard spanking” (Appendix 1).

Differences by educational attainment

In 2016, college-educated women and men were less likely to endorse spanking than their counterparts with less education. Specifically, among college graduates, 65 and 52 percent of men and women, respectively, endorsed spanking, compared to 70 and 65 percent, respectively, among their counterparts with less than a high school degree (appendices 1 and 2).

Differences by age

Younger men are slightly more likely to endorse spanking than their older peers. In 2016, 81 percent of males ages 18 to 24 agreed or strongly agreed that a child sometimes needs a “good, hard spanking,” while only 78 and 73 percent of men ages 25 to 44 and ages 45 to 65, respectively, reported the same (Appendix 1). There were no age-related differences for women, as 64, 68, and 64 percent of women ages 18 to 24, 25 to 44, and 45 to 65, respectively, agreed with the sentiment (Appendix 2).

Other estimates

State and local estimates

None available. In all states, corporal punishment in the child’s home is lawful. The majority of states prohibit corporal punishment in child care settings. Corporal punishment is also unlawful in public schools in 31 states and the District of Columbia; and in 19 states in both public and private schools.1

International estimates

None available. In 46 countries, corporal punishment of children, including at home, is legally prohibited.2

Data and appendices

Data source

• Data for 2002–2016: Child Trends’ original analysis of the General Social Survey (2002–2016), conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Retrieved from http://sda.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/hsda?harcsda+gss10.

• Data for 1986–2000: Child Trends. (2002). Charting parenthood: A statistical portrait of fathers and mothers in America [Table P5.1]. Bethesda, MD: Child Trends. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/ParenthoodRpt2002.pdf.

Raw data source

General Social Survey.
www.norc.org/GSS+Website/

Appendices

Appendix 1. Percentage of Males Ages 18 to 65 Who Either Agree or Strongly Agree that It Is Sometimes Necessary to Discipline a Child by Spanking: Selected Years, 1986–2016
Appendix 2. Percentage of Females Ages 18 to 65 Who Either Agree or Strongly Agree that It Is Sometimes Necessary to Discipline a Child by Spanking: Selected Years, 1986–2016

Background

Definition

Adults in the General Social Survey were asked to report whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree “that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking.”

Citation

Child Trends. (2018). Attitudes toward spanking. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/attitudes-toward-spanking.

Endnotes

1. Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children. (2017). Global progress. London, UK: Author. Retrieved from https://endcorporalpunishment.org/global-progress.
2. Ibid.