May 1995

Prevalence of Corporal Punishment Among Students in Washington State Schools

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics (Drs Grossman and Rivara), Epidemiology (Mr Rauh and Dr Rivara), and Health Services (Dr Grossman), and the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center (Drs Grossman and Rivara and Mr Rauh), University of Washington, Seattle.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149(5):529-532. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1995.02170180059008

Objectives:  To determine the prevalence of corporal punishment in Washington State and the factors associated with its use in Washington elementary and secondary schools.

Design:  Cross-sectional mail survey performed during the summer of 1992.

Setting:  All elementary and secondary schools in the state of Washington.

Results:  One thousand eighteen schools (47%) responded to the survey, of which 80% were publicly funded and 63% were located in urban areas. The study sample closely resembled the profile of all schools in the state. Almost 11% of participating schools permitted corporal punishment at the time of the survey and 3.2% reported its actual use during the 1991-1992 school year, resulting in an estimated prevalence of 7.2 incidents per 1000 students per year. Sixteen percent of corporal punishment actions occurred in schools not permitting its use. Ninety percent of public schools relied on district policy regarding corporal punishment. School characteristics associated with the use of corporal punishment included rural location (crude odds ratio, 2.2; 95% confidence interval, 1.5 to 3.4), enrollment of less than 500 students (crude odds ratio, 1.7; 95% confidence interval, 1.1 to 2.7), and kindergarten to eighth-grade or kindergarten to 12th-grade enrollment (crude odds ratio, 2.5; 95% confidence interval, 1.6 to 3.9).

Conclusions:  The lack of a statewide ban on school corporal punishment at the time of this survey was associated with the continued use of corporal punishment against children in districts that continued to permit it. School policies against corporal punishment were associated with much lower prevalence. Continued efforts are needed to enact and enforce laws in the remaining states that have not yet banned corporal punishment.(Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1995;149:529-532)