The Instrumental Side of Corporal Punishment: Parents' Reported Practices and Outcome Expectancies
Summary The subject of corporal punishment among children is a controversial issue. A vast amount of research has been performed to evaluate the effect of corporal punishment on children. However, rarely has the motivation to use corporal punishment been explored. The studies included in this journal article focus on the parents, and the outcomes they expect to get from different types of punishment. Here the focus is on what the parent believes the immediate, long term, and emotional effects will be. The parents of the study varied in their use of spanking, and were divided into three groups depending on the frequency that they used spanking as a punishment. The theoretical framework of the studies suggests that there is a correlation between a parent's view of spanking and the frequency of spanking that parent employs. The researchers hypothesize that, "Parents who report that they frequently spank will hold positive outcome expectancies about its use, in contrast to the negative outcomes anticipated by those who do not spank. We expected occasional spankers to fall in the middle." Two studies were conducted. The first examined the outcome expectancies of mothers of 36-month-old children. Sixty-one mothers participated. Of those 61, ninety percent were white, and a majority of the women held at least college degrees (69%). Ninety-five percent of the women had incomes over $30,000 a year. The participants were recruited from a database derived from newspaper birth announcements. Mothers were required initially to complete a questionnaire to determine the frequency that they spanked or slapped their children as a response to child misbehavior. The participants were then divided into three categories: Never spankers, Occasional spankers, and Frequent spankers. The Never spankers reported never spanking or slapping, the Occasional spankers spank/slap less than once a week, and the Frequent spankers spank/slap at least once or twice a week. Through interaction with a computer, the participants were presented with four vignettes depicting different types of misbehavior: peer aggression (child hits a friend), defiance using an object (child opens a friend's birthday present after being told not to), tantrum and destruction (child throws a tantrum and destroys a cake), and defiance with food (child eats some candy when told not to). After viewing each vignette on the computer screen, the mothers were asked to imagine themselves spanking, reasoning, or using time out with their child as a response to each misbehavior. Then they were asked to rate the likelihood of 6 outcomes occurring as a result of each punishment. Three of the outcomes were considered child based, and included (a) behave appropriately right away, (b) learn to behave appropriately in the future, and (c) experience distress. The remainder were parent based outcomes and include (d) was appropriate, (e) allows time for calming of the mother and child, and (f) results in feeling guilty. The results of the first study seem to support the hypothesis: "Mother's who use spanking relatively frequently believe in its instrumentality." The second study was similar to the first, but was expanded to include fathers of 36-month-old children, other expectancies, and different types of misbehaviors. The hypothesis of the second study was slightly different than the first. Forty-two mothers and 42 fathers participated in the second study. Again, the participants were mostly college educated middle-class whites. The aim of the second study was to examine different levels of escalated conflictual interaction and different categories of misbehavior. The categories include safety, moral, and socially conventional. The data acquisition method was not changed. Researchers "anticipated that frequent spankers, compared with other parents, would expect children to comply immediately and show respect for parental authority after being spanked." Critique One positive attribute of this study is that it was well structured. The samples were chosen intelligently so as to avoid parental bias from affecting the results. The misbehavior vignettes were chosen carefully as were the expected outcome choices. The use of computers was also an intelligent choice. By using computers to conduct the surveys, the researchers eliminated the timely process of entering data into the computer by hand. Also, the data reduction could be done automatically as the results were entered into the computer. One major weakness in the study was the sample. The majority of the participants in both studies were college educated and married. Although the researchers recognized this problem, they still tried to generalize the results to a larger population. Another aspect of the study that could have skewed the results was the method in which the data was collected. While parents are at a computer answering questions, they have time to reflect and analyze the actions. This problem could have been present especially in the frequently spank group. One problem specific to the second study was clarity. By expanding the study too much, the data obtained became hard to interpret. The results of the second study were confusing.
Journal of Family issues - January 2000
Submitted by: Zach *
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