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

NEW YORK , N.Y. – September 26, 2013 – 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.

    NEW YORK , N.Y. – September 26, 2013 – 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.

    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.

    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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    TABLE 1

    IS SPANKING APPROPRIATE?

    Do you think parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate or is never appropriate?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total 1995

    Total

    2013

    Generation

    Gender

    Child in Household

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Men

    Women

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Spanking is sometimes appropriate

    87

    81

    72

    82

    85

    88

    84

    78

    78

    82

    Spanking is never appropriate

    12

    19

    28

    18

    15

    12

    16

    22

    22

    18

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    TABLE 1A

    IS SPANKING APPROPRIATE? – by region, political party and philosophy

    Do you think parents spanking their children is sometimes appropriate or is never appropriate?

    Base: All U.S. adults

    Total

    2013

    Region

    Political Party

    Political Philosophy

    Was spanked

    East

    Midwest

    South

    West

    Rep

    Dem

    Ind

    Cons

    Mod

    Lib

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Spanking is sometimes appropriate

    81

    75

    83

    86

    76

    87

    78

    80

    87

    81

    71

    86

    50

    Spanking is never appropriate

    19

    25

    17

    14

    24

    13

    22

    20

    13

    19

    29

    14

    50

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone


    TABLE 2

    SPANKED CHILDREN?

    Have you spanked them (your children) or not?

    Base: Parents

    Total 1995

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Was spanked

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Spanked child/ children

    80

    67

    50

    70

    72

    76

    59

    75

    73

    25

    Did not

    19

    33

    50

    30

    28

    24

    41

    25

    27

    75

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    TABLE 3

    WERE YOU SPANKED?

    Were you spanked by your parents when you were a child or not?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total 1995

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Spanked child

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Was spanked

    86

    86

    77

    87

    92

    88

    84

    87

    95

    72

    Was not

    13

    14

    23

    13

    8

    12

    16

    13

    5

    28

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    TABLE 4

    WERE YOU SPANKED WITH TOO MUCH VIOLENCE?

    Were you sometimes spanked by your parents with too much violence or not?

    Base: Was spanked

    Total 1995

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Was spanked with too much violence

    15

    21

    22

    21

    22

    12

    24

    19

    Was not

    85

    79

    78

    79

    78

    88

    76

    81

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone


    TABLE 5

    WERE YOU SPANKED?

    Were there times when you think your parents were quite wrong to spank you or not?

    Base: Was spanked

    Total 1995

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Times when parents were wrong

    33

    34

    35

    38

    36

    24

    34

    34

    Was not

    67

    66

    65

    62

    64

    76

    66

    66

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    TABLE 6

    SHOULD HAVE BEEN SPANKED, BUT WASN’T?

    Do you think there were times when your parents should have spanked you, but they did not?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Was spanked

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    There were times when I should have been spanked

    51

    48

    54

    51

    54

    54

    50

    54

    35

    There were not

    49

    52

    46

    49

    46

    46

    50

    46

    65

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    TABLE 7

    MORE THAN SPANKING

    Were there times when you were physically punished, but not spanked, by your parents when you were a child or not?

    Base: U.S. adults

    Total 2013

    Generation

    Child in household

    Was spanked

    Echo

    Boomers

    (18-36)

    Gen X.

    (37-48)

    Baby

    Boomers

    (49-67)

    Matures

    (68+)

    Yes

    No

    Yes

    No

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    Was physically punished but not spanked

    23

    23

    26

    22

    19

    21

    23

    24

    14

    Was not

    77

    77

    74

    78

    81

    79

    77

    76

    86

    Note: Percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding; 1995 data was collected by telephone

     

    Methodology

    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.

    J43565

    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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