Despite significant support for such broad generalizations, many questions remain regarding relations among SES, parenting, and child growth.
The expressions physical punishment and corporal punishment are employed here as synonyms to refer to an action by parents intended to cause the child physical hurting, but not injury, for purposes of correction or control of misconduct. The 1975 and 1985 National Family Violence Surveys discovered that about 95% of American parents use corporal punishment as just cleared. This is consistent with a large number of other studies (Straus, 1991) and with the faith that corporal punishment is used by parents with tots or young children.
Public health advocates have described corporal punishment as "a form of interfamilial violence associated with short and long-term adverse mental health outcomes" (Stewart et al., 2000, p. 257). Corporal punishment in the United States presents a complex picture, with high but decreasing rates of general approval, and a population increasingly divided regarding its use (Straus & Mathur, 1994). The approval of corporal punishment in the United States decreased dramatically from 94% in 1978 to 68% in 1994 (Straus & Mathur, 1996). Whereas in 1978 there was almost universal approval in the United States for parents spanking children, regardless of demographic variables, by 1994 disagreements were evident, with greater approval noted among African Americans, Southerners, and those with fewer years of formal education (Straus & Mathur, 1996). Unfortunately, data concerning Latinos are limited. Frequently, Latinos are simply excluded from the sample or are miscoded as African American or White (Ortega, Guillean, & Najera, 1996).
The actual use of corporal punishment in the United States is also decreasing (Dart & Gelles, 1992; Straus, 1994). Even so, corporal punishment is still used widely, and Giles-Sims, Straus, and Sugarman (1995) have reported that "almost all children in the United States are spanked by their parents at some point in their lives" (p. 170).
For parents to give up corporal punishment, they need to establish an effective alternative system of instruction and discipline. Research supports the notion that three kinds of parenting behaviors constitute such a system: those that promote the parent-child relationship, those that reinforce positive behaviors, and those that decrease undesired behaviors (Howard, 1996). Parents who resort to frequent or severe corporal punishment are likely to rely too much on punitive techniques, without using the other methods. They may underutilize other ways to gain compliance: through building their relationship with their children, reinforcing positive behaviors, and decreasing undesired behaviors through means other than punishment (e.g., distracting the child).
Male gender, lower socioeconomic status, comorbid analysis of ADHD, positive parental history of mental illness