Corporal punishment is a form of discipline that the AAP frowns upon and has instead recommended other types of limit-setting as disciplinary alternatives in a 1998 policy statement (101/4/723). So how successful has that policy been in reducing corporal punishment and have the trends differed by the socioeconomic status of families?
Ryan et al. (10.1542/peds.2016-0720) have looked at data they have obtained from four national surveys over a 23 year period to see if spanking and physical discipline remained as prevalent before the policy came out as afterward. In addition, the study looked at how prevalent other types of discipline strategies were such as time-outs and talking to the child rather than using corporal punishment. The bottom-line is some nice trending away from spanking and over to alternative forms of discipline at all socioeconomic levels.
There is a richness to the data in this study as it looks at discipline by socioeconomic status and categorizes the types of discipline strategies being used at various income percentages—but in all cases corporal punishment is on the decline—and that’s good news. To help celebrate the findings in this study, Dr. Heidi Feldman who participated in the writing of the 1998 AAP policy weighs in with a commentary (10.1542/peds.2016-2741) . Take a time-out and read both the study and commentary and share the findings with families who do favor the use of corporal punishment so you can help change their behaviors of both parents and their children in a less punitive way.