Appropriateness and Effectiveness of Spanking: A Study of Child Misbehavior and Child-Adult Relationship

Tara Poncelet, Anna Lukes


This study discusses contemporary societal perceptions of spanking as a form of child discipline. Children have keen sense of mischievousness and often misbehave to simply express their emotions. Two types of misbehavior, aggressive and passive, are defined respectively as hitting or kicking versus disobeying or talking back to an adult. In either case, adults should subdue the misbehavior; however, the perceptions of what is an appropriate and what is an effective form of discipline can be influenced by the child-adult relationship, either child-parent or child- babysitter. The 218 participants, ages 18-70 from the Midwest, read a short paragraph describing one of four scenarios and rated the appropriateness and effectiveness of spanking using five-point Likert scales. There were two statements presented for each dependent variable. A 2 (child-parent versus child-babysitter relationship) x 2 (aggressive versus passive misbehavior on the part of the child) between-subjects design was implemented. Data was analyzed using two-way analysis of variance. Results indicated a significant main effect for appropriateness; spanking is more appropriate for a parent to perform rather than a babysitter. There was no main effect for appropriateness and type of misbehavior. Results also indicated no significant main effect for effectiveness; spanking is not effective when used in either type of relationship or for either type of misbehavior. There was no interaction between relationship and misbehavior on any of the dependent variables. Although spanking is perceived as an inappropriate and an ineffective form of child discipline in society, there is a clear difference in who performs the spanking. In sum, this study focuses on a contemporary issue regarding parenting, family matters, and disciplining styles. This research is valuable for potential future parents to become more aware of the changing views of child discipline, as it is necessary to determine the most appropriate and most effective disciplinary actions in order to produce positive effects on both children and adults.


Spanking; Child Discipline; Misbehavior

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