Washington Post 5 March 2015
NFL star Adrian Peterson’s indictment last September over hitting his son with a switch renewed a long-running debate over whether parents should give up spanking their children. But as some anti-spanking activists acknowledge, the fight is a tough slog as Americans see spanking as largely acceptable. Newly released data find no sign of that changing.
Fully seven in 10 U.S. adults agree a “good, hard spanking is sometimes necessary to discipline a child,” while less than half as many disagree (29 percent) according to the 2014 wave of the General Social Survey released Tuesday by NORC at the University of Chicago. After a modest drop in popularity in the late-1980s and 90s, support has stabilized, fluctuating between 68 and 72 percent in the past decade.
Endorsing spanking “sometimes” is far from approving of Peterson’s actions, which allegedly caused numerous injuries. And the news appears to have had minimal impact on overall — a comparison of responses before and after the news broke finds no difference in support.
Millennials – the most recent generation to have been children – aren’t leading any attitudes change on the issue of spanking, in contrast to gay marriage and marijuana. If anything, they are slightly more supportive than their elders. These small differences should not be interpreted too strongly – a statistical analysis by Fivethirtyeight’s Harry Enten last year found age was not a strong influence on child spanking views after controlling for other factors. Enten found race, region, religion and partisanship are key influences toward these attitudes.