Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal

, Volume 36, Issue 1, pp 19–28 | Cite as

Commonalities and Differences in Social Norms Related to Corporal Punishment Among Black, Latino and White Parents

  • Joanne KlevensEmail author
  • Laura Mercer Kollar
  • Genevieve Rizzo
  • Gerad O’Shea
  • Jessica Nguyen
  • Sarah Roby


To establish commonalities and differences in social norms related to corporal punishment among Black, Latino, and White parents, we first examine survey data from a random sample of a nationally representative opt-in internet panel (n = 2500) to establish the frequency of corporal punishment among parents of children under five (n = 540) and their perceptions of the frequency of use of corporal punishment in their community and whether they ought to use corporal punishment. We disaggregate by race/ethnicity and education to identify higher risk groups. To better understand the beliefs underlying these perceptions among the higher risk group (i.e., less educated), we used a grounded theory approach to analyze data from 13 focus groups (n = 75) segmented by race/ethnicity (i.e., Black, Latino, or White), gender (i.e., mothers or fathers), and population density (i.e., rural or urban). Survey findings revealed that 63% of parents spanked, albeit the majority seldom or sometimes. Spanking was most frequent among Latinos (73%) and lowest among White parents (59%). While all participants across racial/ethnic groups believed the majority of parents spanked, even more than the proportion that actually do, about half believed they ought to spank. Perceptions of the frequency and acceptability of corporal punishment were associated with use of corporal punishment. The qualitative findings highlight more similarities than differences across Black, Latino, and White communities. The findings suggest social norms change efforts might focus on parents with less education and influencing perceptions around whether they ought to spank.


Social norms Corporal punishment Children 



The authors have no financial relationships relevant to this article to disclose.


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Contract No. HHSD2002015M88152B.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© This is a U.S. Government work and not under copyright protection in the US; foreign copyright protection may apply  2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Violence PreventionCenters for Disease Control and PreventionAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.Rollins School of Public HealthEmory UniversityAtlantaUSA
  3. 3.Applied Curiosity ResearchLong Island CityUSA

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