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Quickly, the fight over “spanking” starts to look a lot like a struggle for the country overall, played out on the bodies of children.• • •From the macro data, it seems that corporal punishment is becoming less popular in the United States.Evaluating numerous national surveys taken over the past decades, Murray Straus, an expert on corporal punishment at the University of New Hampshire in Durham, found that the number of parents who say spanking is sometimes necessary dropped from more than 90 percent in 1968 to about 65 or 70 percent in 1994, and then has remained fairly steady through today.
’ ” As in the Haase family, overall support in America for corporal punishment, polls show, has decreased significantly during past decades.Soon child advocates took to the airwaves to condemn corporal punishment overall, while other commentators lambasted the National Football League for having an apparent problem with domestic violence.But soon a number of Southerners, who are more likely to spank their children, told the Northeast opinion writers to back off.“Looking at it now, I don’t see it as a negative thing,” he says.He describes his and his sister’s upbringing as warm and loving, with spanking only a very minor part of childhood: “It helped me.It set me straight when I wasn’t listening to words.” Still, he says, he does not think he will spank his own children when he has them.
For her part, Sandy Haase expresses ambivalence about it.“I know there were times when I did it when I was getting extremely frustrated,” she says.
But what is also emblematic of the Haase family is the ambiguity and nuance that surrounds corporal punishment, even among those who use it.
Swirling around every spank or paddle are questions about the line between discipline and abuse, the proper way to use physical punishment, intentions versus actions, outcomes versus causes.
Indeed, some academics fret about the term “corporal punishment” because it is both misunderstood and broad; used officially in the parenting context it means any physical punishment – or discipline, depending on one’s view – of children.
But whatever one’s interpretation of this volatile topic, peeling back the debate over corporal punishment soon uncovers the divisions and misunderstandings between American cultures and races, regions and religions, parenting experts and everyday parents.
His research shows that 90 percent of toddlers are still hit by parents.