October 1996

Attitudes of Academic Pediatricians With a Specific Interest in Child Abuse Toward the Spanking of Children

Author Affiliations

From the Departments of Pediatrics, University of Alabama at Birmingham (Dr Fargason), The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Md (Dr Chernoff), and University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill (Dr Socolar).

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150(10):1049-1053. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1996.02170350051009

Objective:  To evaluate the attitudes of academic child abuse professionals toward spanking, the effect of context and mode of administration on their attitudes toward spanking appropriateness, and what they teach residents about spanking.

Design:  A survey.

Participants:  Convenience sample of 114 members of the Ambulatory Pediatric Association's Special Interest Group on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Main Outcome Measures:  Respondents were asked if spanking was an appropriate disciplinary option for children 2, 5, and 8 years of age who refused to go to bed, ran into the streets without looking, or hit a playmate. Respondents also rated the appropriateness of spanking in 6 additional scenarios where the setting in which spanking occurred was varied. Respondents' teaching practices relative to spanking observed during a clinic visit were also elicited.

Results:  The response rate was 70%; 39% thought spanking was appropriate sometimes. The context and mode of spanking affected the acceptance of spanking. All respondents thought that some response was appropriate when spanking was observed during a continuity clinic visit. However, only 29% of respondents taught residents how to handle such situations.

Conclusions:  Most academic child abuse professionals believe that spanking is inappropriate and their beliefs are influenced by the context in which spanking occurs. Little is taught about how to manage spanking observed in a clinical setting.Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1996;150:1049-1053