Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Agriculture, Food and Environment
Dr. Jason D. Hans
Nearly 19 out of every 20 parents with 3- or 4-year-old children report spanking their child within the past year, and in schools spanking is a legal form of discipline in 19 states (nearly a quarter-million students received corporal punishment at school at least once during the 2006–2007 academic year). Although corporal punishment is a widely accepted form of child discipline in the United States, little is known about differences concerning attitudes toward the use of corporal punishment among subcultures within the United States.
To address this gap, three studies were designed to examine attitudes toward corporal punishment in a few distinct subgroups that may show a propensity or aversion to spanking relative to the general public. Specifically, these studies were conducted using a panel of 420 active duty military personnel, a simple random sample of 1,357 undergraduate college students at a major research university, and a general population sample of 732 people obtained via Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk).
A 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 factorial vignette design was used to examine whether sex, ethnicity or race, education, parental status, religion, religiosity, and culture affect attitudes toward corporal punishment, and whether the effects of those factors varies across subgroups. Binary logistic regression models were constructed to assess the effect that the contextual variables had on respondents’ support for the use of corporal punishment, as well as whether the respondents would use corporal punishment on their own child given the same scenario. Descriptive statistics, cross-tabulations, and content analysis was also used to examine in greater detail how attitudes toward corporal punishment vary according to religion and religiosity.
Overall, 73.6 % of active duty military respondents indicated that the use corporal punishment in the vignette was appropriate, and 52.4% indicated that they would use corporal punishment on their own child given the same situation presented in the vignette. There was not a statistically significant difference between males and females in the sample, χ2 (2, N = 420) = 3.15, p = .207. In addition, those who read about a mother or a military parent were roughly 2.5 times more likely to say it was appropriate to spank the child than non-military parents and fathers respectively.
When comparing the military, college student, and general population samples in the second study results show military respondents (73.6%) indicated that the use corporal punishment in the vignette was appropriate at a statistically significant, higher rate than the general population (42.8%), and college students (40.1 %), χ2 (2, N = 2,485) = 110.05, p = < .001. Similarly, 52.4% of military respondents indicated they would spank their own child given the same scenario at a statistically significant higher rate than general population (28.7%), and college students (32.4%), χ2 (2, N = 2,485) = 71.12, p = < .001. In the third study, descriptive statistics indicate attitudes toward corporal punishment vary according to religion and religiosity, as well as between active duty military personnel and civilians but that religion and religiosity do not statistically enhance the prediction of attitudes toward corporal punishment after accounting for several respondent characteristics. Open-ended rationales provided by respondents provide insight and directions for family life educators wishing to intervene with military and religious individuals (i.e., two groups with relatively high endorsement of corporal punishment).
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Weisenhorn, David A., "ATTITUDES TOWARD CORPORAL PUNISHMENT: THE EFFECTS OF SEX, ETHNICITY, MILITARY CULTURE, AND RELIGION" (2017). Theses and Dissertations--Family Sciences. 53.