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    Perspectives on Corporal Punishment 1


    The purpose of this paper is to study the acceptability of spanking across the span of three

    different generations. Most of our participants, however, say that they have never spanked a

    child in their lifetime (about 58 percent). Also, most of the people that we surveyed did not have

    children of their own that they could spank (about 65.8 of our participants). Also, a majority of

    the people that we all surveyed did not have any responsibilities to spank a child of any age

    (about 66.7 percent). This makes a difference in our research because some people can say one

    thing about spanking but then when they have the opportunity they may not actually do it or they

    may do it, depending on the person. We concluded that over the span of three generations people

    think that it is okay to spank a child (roughly 75 percent) even though most of the participants do

    have responsibilities to spank a child or have a child of their own. To make our study stronger,

    we should have had a variety of ethnicities instead of mainly Caucasian.

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    Perspectives on Corporal Punishment

    Spanking has been accepted as a way to discipline children for many years but has slowly

    become unacceptable over the past recent years. Spanking is, according to the online dictionary,

    to strike (a person, usually a child) with the open hand, a slipper, etc., especially on the

    buttocks, as in punishment (Dictionary). Recent studies have shown that spanking leads to

    aggressive behaviors, behavioral disorders, and cognitive delays later in life.

    Most child-development experts include acts such as tapping a toddler's diaper-

    cushioned bottom when he misbehaves and smacking the hand of a kid protectively as he reaches

    for a hot stove in the same category (Moninger). Childdevelopment experts say that spanking

    is always okay if the child is getting ready to touch a hot stove, for example. In these

    circumstances, it is okay to pat them on the bottom with their diaper or pull-up on because they

    have a cushioned bottom or the smacking of their hand(s). This way they will know not to touch

    something hot or do it again. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) tells parents not to

    resort to any of these punishments under any type of circumstances. Benjamin Siegel, M.D.,

    chair of AAPs Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health said, theres

    no reason to get physical with a child when other discipline tactics are more effective

    (Moninger). This means that experts are also saying that there is no reason for a parent to spank

    their child. They should use other forms of discipline to punish a child such as time-out or

    writing sentences to say that they will not do or say the act again. They believe that spanking can

    evolve into abuse, which can ultimately endanger a childs safety (Moninger).

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    On the other hand, there is some recent research that shows that it is okay and will be

    good for children to get spanked. Marjorie Gunnoe, a Calvin College Psychology Professor,

    stated that spanking children is not a bad thing. Kids who get the occasional smack on the rump

    before the age of 6 grow up to be more successful adults (Henderson). This statement says that

    it is okay to spank a child when needed. Children, who are spanked when they are under the age

    of six years old, have been found to be more successful adults because they were spanked when

    they were younger. Gunnoe claims that children who were spanked when they were toddlers and

    preschoolers are more likely to conduct volunteer work and attend secondary schooling after

    graduating high school. She studied spanking for more than ten years. She says that this, in no

    way, should be a green light for people to just go ahead and spank their children (Henderson).

    We are studying the acceptability of spanking across the span of three different

    generations. We will be reviewing how the acceptability of spanking changes the attitudes of

    these generations by asking survey questions on whether the participant practiced corporal

    punishment or was a victim of spanking. This will give us a chance to see what the opinions and

    practices of spanking looks like over the three generations we are surveying. This will also give

    us an opportunity to see how drastically the opinions or practices of spanking have changed over

    the past sixty years or so.

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    Review of Literature

    Our research study is asking the question: Does the effects of spanking affect generation

    Y, generation X, and the Baby Boom generations attitudes/opinions of the acceptability of

    spanking? We want to look at how the attitudeson spanking of the generations before have

    affected the attitudes toward spanking on the following generation and how those attitudes shape

    new attitudes.

    Our research questions are influenced by attachment theories and parental styles. Parental

    styles and attachment works together to create a secure base for the child (Steinberg, 2011).

    Creating a secure base also means creating a positive environment with parent and child; in order

    to create this, the parent must use non punitive discipline. Corporal punishment can harm a

    relationship between parent and child which in turn can create a negative view toward both


    We are studying the effect of spanking on multiple generations so we chose to look at

    research articles from different generations to view the attitudes and ways of each generation.

    We also looked at those articles in order to see if the attitudes from one generation could affect

    the attitudes of the next generation. Straus explains that the attitudes toward corporal punishment

    slowly change over time and have since the early twentieth century; Straus states that corporal

    punishment was more frequent and severe in earlier centuries than it was in centuries later on

    (Straus, 2004). This punishment was so severe that it would now be considered abuse, but at the

    time it was an accepted practice (Straus, 1994). Straus view of how corporal punishment has

    changed shows that generations can affect how the following generations will respond to

    corporal punishment; the generations that are being discussed are mostly a parent- child

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    generation so the parents grew up with a certain opinion toward corporal punishment and then

    raised their children with that view. Those children then have formed new opinions on corporal

    punishment, whether changed or not, which they use when raising their own children; thus

    slowly changing perceptions of corporal punishment over generations.

    Studies done before 2000 accepted spanking as a normal practice and found no research

    done to prove that spanking harms children later on in life (Baumrind, 1996). Baumrinds article

    is an agreement piece to Doctor Robert Larzelere's study proving that spanking does no harm to

    children; she asserts that if spanking is used consistently, and with an explanation to the child

    why they arebeing punished, there will be no consensus that spanking is a generative cause of

    negative outcome in children and adults (1996, p. 831). Straus (1994) states that, more than 90

    percent of American parents hit toddlers and most continued to hit their children for years,

    which shows the obvious views of the parents and may suggest that parents did not have

    knowledge that spanking had negative side effects (p.3). Straus (1994) explains that most parents

    dont look at corporal punishment and see the side effect, the parents are seeing their children

    misbehave and using corporal punishment to address the misbehaviors; this focus on

    misbehaviors instead of negative side effects is because of a lack of knowledge on parents part

    (p. 5). Straus (1994) states that a painful attack of corporal punishment can have lasting effects

    on the child such as, post-traumatic stress syndrome that creates deep, lifelong psychological

    problems, such as depression and suicidal thinking (p. 10).

    Flynn (1998) suggested that, at that time period, virtually all parents spank their children

    and the vast majority of American adults favor corporal punishment as a disciplinary technique

    (21). His study was compiled of college students who were being assessed of their attitude

    towards spanking and overall, the consensus was that these students believed spanking was

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    acceptable in most situations for children of all ages (Flynn, 1998 p. 21). Flynn (1998) explains

    that, physicians were least likely to favor spanking for relatively minor misbehavior (refusing to

    go to bed), and most likely to favor spanking when the child's misbehavior was dangerous

    (running into the street) (p. 23). This suggests that corporal punishment was still accepted

    during this time since physicians believed this and most likely advised parents of this. Flynn

    (1998) also states that parents views on corporal punishment could change as a result from

    becoming a parent, in which the way they thought they would discipline is different from the

    way they actually discipline; most people have close to the same opinions as their parents

    considering they grew up surrounded by that opinion but after having their own children views

    can change (p. 23).

    Additionally, Soculor and Stein (1995) found evidence that spanking was not appropriate,

    yet it is the most common form of discipline in the United States. At the time of this study,

    mothers from a low-income and high-income area in New York both support spanking their

    children, in their beliefs and actions.

    Studies done after the year 2000, done from a generation Z perspective, showed high

    resistance to spanking as it shows that spanking hurts childrens ability to perform cognitively

    and childrens behavior in school. For example, according to Knox and Brouwer (2008), Today,

    many professional organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, the National

    Association of Social Workers (2006), and the American Association of Child and Adolescent

    Psychiatry (1998) recommend against spanking and other forms corporal punishment and

    strongly recommend that parents choose alternative methods of discipline, (p. 341). Also in this

    article, the authors express concern that many countries have even outlawed spanking, yet some

    professionals in the United States are still recommending spanking as a form of discipline to new

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    mothers (Knox and Brouwer, 2008). Knox and Brouwer (2008) suggest that by spanking

    children, parents can contribute to misbehaviors and enhance a childs ability to create those

    misbehaviors; since early experiences develop a foundation in the childs brain, researchers

    suggest that parents stray away from corporal punishment (p. 341). Knox and Brouwer (2008)

    have explained that straying away from corporal punishment could increase, a childs learning

    and socialization, since punishment could have negative lifelong effects on children (p. 341).

    In a study by Maguire-Jack, Gromoske, and Berger (2012), they found a correlation

    between spanking and child development during the first 5 years of life. Maguire-Jack,

    Gromoske, and Berger (2012) has stated that Parental discipline strategies are a form of

    socialization that may affect and be affected by child functioning and behavior, which suggest

    that corporal punishment could have negative effects on childrens socialization skills (p. 1962).

    Spanking, at the age of 1, has been found to be associated with a higher level of externalizing

    behaviors at the age of 3, as well as a higher internalizing and externalizing level of behavior at

    age 5; research has found that the relationships between spanking at age 1 and the behavioral

    problems at age 5 were operated through constant spanking at the age of 3 (Maguire-Jack,

    Gromoske, and Berger, 2012). There is not, however, a lot of research that has been to link

    spanking at the age of 1 and having cognitive development trouble at the ages of 3 and 5 years of

    age (Maguire-Jack, Gromoske, and Berger, 2012).

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    We collected our data through a survey that was administered through paper and

    electronically to college students, and other adults ranging in various ages. If participants

    completed the survey through paper, they would fill it out, sign the consent form, and hand it

    back to myself or one of the other researchers in our group where we would separate the consent

    form from the survey and put it in a pile with our other surveys. If participants completed the

    survey electronically, they would highlight their answers, electronically sign the consent form,

    and email it back to chi[email protected]. The research team would then

    print out the survey and consent form, separate the two papers, and delete the email as to be sure

    our participants survey answers remained confidential.

    Our study was cross-sectional because we surveyed different age groups at the same time.

    Our sample consisted of people from Generation Y, also known as the Millenials generation,

    who were born between 1980-2000, Generation X, who were born between 1965-1979, Baby

    Boom who were born between 1946-1964, and the Silent Generation who were born between


    Our sample was 64% from Generation Y, 7% from Generation X, 22% from the Baby

    Boom generation, and 7% from the Silent Generation. It was 86% Caucasian participants, 7%

    African-American participants, and 5% Other participants. Our sample size was small and

    limited in variety but the answers among the different participants surveyed varied greatly.

    Our independent variable was age group/generation. We surveyed different age groups to

    determine if corporal punishment practices differed from the 1960s, to the 1990s when

    Generation Y were children, to whether new parents today view corporal punishment as

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    acceptable or not. We asked questions in our survey such as is it okay to a spank a child?

    Answers to this question ranged from never, rarely, sometimes, almost always, and always. This

    question was the basis of our whole research study because our research question was which

    groups view corporal punishment as an acceptable discipline practice. We also asked another

    crucial question about whether or not the participant was spanked. This question was critical

    because it demonstrated if the practice of spanking was acceptable during their childhood, they

    may view corporal punishment as an acceptable discipline practice to execute for their children.

    Our dependent variable is which age groups/generations deem spanking acceptable.

    Through our multitude of survey questions we asked, we tried to determine if the current

    research affected the participants perceptions on the acceptability of corporal punishment. One of

    the questions we asked was the question whether or not the participants will spank their children

    or have spanked children they care for. This is one of our defining questions because it highlights

    whether or not the research out there about spanking, such as spanking causes delinquent

    behavior later on in life, and it may cause mental disorders such as anxiety and anger problems,

    is impacting peoples attitudes toward corporal punishment.

    Another variable we measured was the varying levels of corporal punishment. Spanking

    can be defined in many different ways by many different people. Spanking can be classified as

    hitting someone with an open hand on the buttocks, hitting someone with something other than a

    hand on the buttocks or hitting someone somewhere other than the buttocks. We asked our

    participants to rate the acceptability of the varying levels of spanking to see which practices were

    perceived as a normal discipline practice and which ones were bordering the edge of child abuse.

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    We hypothesize that the Baby Boom generation will deem spanking as an acceptable

    disciplinary method, while Generation Y will not believe that spanking is acceptable.

    Figure 1: Perspectives on Corporal Punishment shows our variables and how they

    connect among one another.

    Experience of corporal punishment during childhood

    Perceptions on the effectiveness of spanking

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    Corporal punishment/discipline use with offspring

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    Frequency of Response Percentage of Response

    What is your gender?

    Female 26 68%

    Male 12 32%What year were you born?

    Millennial 24 63%

    Generation X 3 8%

    Baby Boom 8 21%

    Silent 3 8%

    What is your ethnicity?

    Caucasian 33 87%



    3 8%

    Other 2 5%

    Were you spanked when you were a child?

    Yes 32 84%

    No 6 16%

    How often where you spanked?

    Rarely 22 58%

    Sometimes 6 16%

    Almost Always 4 11%Always 1 3%

    N/A 5 13%

    Is it okay to spank a child?

    Never 6 16%

    Rarely 16 42%

    Sometimes 14 37%

    Almost Always 1 3%

    Always 1 3%

    Is it okay to physically punish a child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    Never 19 50%

    Rarely 15 39%

    Sometimes 3 8%

    N/A 1 3%

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    Is it okay to spank a child with something other than a hand?

    Never 23 61%

    Rarely 7 18%

    Sometimes 8 21%

    Do you have a child (biological, adopted, fostering, etc.)?

    Yes 13 34%

    No 25 66%

    Do you have responsibility over a child where you have the freedom to

    decide what disciplinary action to take on the child (such as a grandchild,

    niece/nephew, sibling, etc.)?

    Yes 13 34%

    No 25 66%

    Have you ever spanked the child?

    Yes 8 21%

    No 11 29%

    N/A 19 50%

    Have you ever hit the child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    Yes 4 11%

    No 15 39%

    N/A 19 50%

    Have you ever used something other than a hand to spank the child?

    Yes 1 3%

    No 18 47%

    N/A 19

    Will you spank your children?

    Yes 14 37%

    Maybe 9 24%

    No 5 13%

    N/A 10 26%

    Will you ever hit a child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    Yes 5 13%

    Maybe 10 26%

    No 13 34%

    N/A 10 26%

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    Will you ever use something other than a hand to spank a child?

    Yes 5 13%

    Maybe 8 21%

    No 15 39%

    N/A 10 26%

    The majority of our research is from white females who were spanked during their

    childhood. This is a limitation in our research because we did not have a very diverse population.

    The purpose of our research was to compare each generations experiences and opinions on

    spanking. However, over half of our participants are from one generation. This makes it very

    difficult to compare our results because they are not of an equal amount. Since most of our

    research data is from college students who are unmarried and childless, the answer maybe or

    not answered are the two most prevalent in regards to spanking their children. Very few

    participants were adamant that they will spank their children or that they will not spank their


    Only one Caucasian male from the Millennial Generation was spanked but claimed that

    spanking was never okay and that he would never spank his children. On the opposite end, one

    Caucasian female from Generation X was spanked almost always and also believes that it is okay

    to spank a child almost always and she has spanked her children and chose maybe for the

    question, Will you spank your child with something other than a hand?

    It is also interesting that many participants believe that spanking is okay rarely or

    sometimes yet there were a handful of participants who were spanked always and almost always.

    The participants who had been spanked more often than others expressed that they would spank

    their children somewhere other than the buttocks and with something other than a hand. Most

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    participants did not believe that these two things were okay and expressed that they would not do

    it with their children.

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    After reading extensive literature, gathering data through survey questions, and analyzing

    that data we have come to the conclusion that our hypothesis was rejected. Our data showed that

    the youngest generation, Generation Y, was spanked, and will spank their children while the

    older generations such as the Baby Boom Generation or the Silent Generation split down the

    middle between whether or not they were spanked and whether or not they spanked or would

    spank their children. Our study goes against our hypothesis and all of the literature we have

    accumulated from the recent years of research.

    We noticed in our research that a lot of people were spanked when they were children.

    There are a lot of factors that are associated with that: region, parents being spanked, number of

    adults in the household etc. While we are unaware of these factors we notice that there is a

    positive correlation between the participant being subjected to corporal punishment such as

    spanking and the participants ideals that corporal punishment is acceptable for their future or

    current offspring.

    The reason our data may have been skewed against all the recent research and our

    hypothesis is because of our limitations. Unfortunately, our study had multiple limitations. The

    first and probably most influential one is our sample. Our sample greatly lacked diversity. Our

    sample contained 64% of our participants from Generation Y and only 36% from the other 3

    generations. Our sample was 87% Caucasian and 68% female. The most instances of spanking

    occur in African American families for various reasons that research has proven so we should

    have had a higher sample from that ethnicity which might have helped prove our hypothesis

    better. It was interesting to note that while over half of our sample was female, they still chose

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    that they would or have spanked their children because females are thought to have a gentler

    outlook so physically harming a child to discipline them is not thought of as acceptable.

    Our second limitation that really affected our study was that we didnt account for the

    retrospective bias in the older generations. Retrospective bias is believing that everything in the

    past was great. Its also known as the good ol days phenomena. For example, some of the

    older participants from our survey could have spanked their children a long time but now that

    their children are grown, the participants believe that they never spanked their children because

    they raised them right and they would never be so cruel.

    Another limitation was the questions we omitted from our survey; whether or not the

    participant was married or a single parent. Some of the research we looked at studied these two

    interesting phenomena with their effect on spanking. Married couples values may change from

    when they were single on ideals such as parenting or discipline methods. If a couple has two

    varying ideals one spouse may affect the other to change their mind or stance on an issue so their

    perception may have changed once they were married but we didnt ask that question. Single

    parents have a lot of added stress that a two-parent household doesnt have. A single parent has

    to be a friend and a disciplinary figure all on their own, while also trying to work and provide for

    their family. With the high levels of stress, research shows that single parents are more likely to

    spank their children just as a quick, effective, cheap discipline option that is sometimes proven to

    work but also helps get the parents anger towards the child out. Corporal punishment may not

    have always been a part of their belief system but when the stress levels are high the parents lash

    out sometimes frequently and violently.

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    The implications of this research are that more research needs to be done. Due to the fact

    that our research contradicts a lot of the research out in the field right now, I think this topic

    needs to be probed a little bit more. Studies need to be done on specific generations

    longitudinally so research can be done to show if how the differing attitudes toward spanking

    have or do change over time. More literature needs to be published on the effects of spanking on

    children later on in life because if the findings are negative parents might choose to spare their

    children the pain and the negative outcomes in life.

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    Consent Form

    This survey is part of a research project about spanking across generations for FCS 400 -

    Child Development at Bridgewater College. It was made by Jennifer Lutz, Michelle Caron,

    Amanda Halterman and Brooke Coleman. The survey should take about fifteen minutes for youto complete. Your answers will be completely anonymous. While there should not be any risks to

    taking this survey, you may stop taking it at any time if you wish and your responses will not be

    used. Data responses will be aggregated to maintain confidentiality.

    If you have any questions, you may email Dr. Donna Hancock at [email protected]

    Your electronic signature below means that you voluntarily agree to participate in this research





    You are receiving this survey by email. Please follow these instructions:

    1. Highlight one answer that is the best for you

    2. Save the document to your computer

    3. Email the document to [email protected]

    Once the email is received your survey will:

    1. Be IMMEDIATELY printed out

    2. The email will be deleted

    3. The consent form and the survey will be separated

    4. The consent form will be in a folder with all of the other consent forms

    5. The survey (which has no identifiable information about you) will be calculated for the

    research results

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    Survey Questions

    1) What is your gender?

    a. Male

    b. Female

    2) What year were you born?

    a. 2000/2001-Present - New Silent Generation or Generation Z

    b. 1980-2000 - Millennials or Generation Y

    c. 1965-1979 - Generation X

    d. 1946-1964 - Baby Boom

    e. 1925-1945 - Silent Generation

    3) What is your ethnicity?

    a. Caucasian

    b. African American

    c. Asian

    d. Hispanic

    e. Pacific Islander

    f. Other

    4) Were you spanked when you were a child?

    a. Yes

    b. No

    If question #4 was answered A

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    5) How often were you spanked?

    a. Never

    b. Rarely

    c. Sometimes

    d. Almost Always

    e. Always

    If question #4 was answered A or B

    6) Is it okay to spank a child?

    a. Never

    b. Rarely

    c. Sometimes

    d. Almost Always

    e. Always

    7) Is it okay to physically punish a child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    a. Never

    b. Rarely

    c. Sometimes

    d. Almost Always

    e. Always

    8) Is it okay to spank a child with something other than a hand?

    a. Never

    b. Rarely

    c. Sometimes

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    d. Almost Always

    e. Always

    9) Do you have a child (biological, adopted, fostering, etc)?

    a. Yes

    b. No

    10) Do you have responsibility over a child where you have the freedom to decide what

    disciplinary action to take on the child (such as a grandchild, niece/nephew, sibling, etc.)?

    a. Yes

    b. No

    If question #9 or #10 was answered A

    11) Have you ever spanked the child?

    a. Yes

    b. No

    12) Have you ever hit the child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    a. Yes

    b. No

    13) Have you ever used something other than a hand to spank the child?

    a. Yes

    b. No

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    If question #9 or #10 was answered B

    14) Will you spank your children?

    a. Yes

    b. Maybe

    c. No

    15) Will you ever hit a child somewhere besides the buttocks?

    a. Yes

    b. Maybe

    c. No

    16) Will you ever use something other than a hand to spank a child?

    a. Yes

    b. Maybe

    c. No

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    Baumrind, D. (1996). A blanket injunction against disciplinary use of spanking is not warranted

    by the data. Pediatrics, 98(4), 828-831. Retrieved from




    Flynn, C. P. (1998). To spank or not to spank: the effect of situation and age of child on support

    for corporal punishment. Journal of Family Violence, 13(1), 21-37. Retrieved from

    [email protected]

    Henderson, Tom. 5 January 2010. Researcher Says a Little Spanking Is Good for Kids. Parent

    Dish. 17 November 2012. .

    Knox, M., & Brouwer, J. (2008). Early childhood professionals' recommendations for spanking

    young children. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma, 1(4), 341-348. Retrieved from

    [email protected]

    Maguire-Jack, K., Berger, L. M., & Gromoske, A. N. (2012). Spanking and child development

    during the first 5 years of life. Child Development, 1-18. Retrieved from

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    Moninger, Jeannette. 2012. The GreatSpanking Debate. Parents. 17 November 2012.


    Simons, R. L., Simons, L. G, & Wallace, L. E. (2004). Families, delinquency, and crime: linking

    societys most basic institution to antisocial behavior. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury

    Publishing Company.

    Socolar, R. R. S., & Stein, R. E. K. (1995). Spanking infants and toddlers: Maternal belief and

    practice. Pediatrics, 95, 105. Retrieved from

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    Spanking. 17 November 2012. .

    Steinberg, L. (2011). Development: Infancy through adolescence. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Straus, M. (1994). Beating the devil out of them: Corporal punishment in american families.

    New York: Lexington Books.