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Commentary: Changing the Social Norm about Corporal Punishment

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Evidence for the detrimental effects of corporal punishment (CP) on children has been borne out by more than 50 years of empirical research. However, in the United States, many parents continue to use and have favorable attitudes toward CP, reflecting an entrenched social norm. This commentary provides a review of the findings from two studies on how parents’ perceptions of CP are influenced by social norms (Fleckman, Taylor, Theall, & Andrinopoulous, Child Adol Soc Work J., 2019; Klevens, Kollar, Rizzo, O’Shea, Nguyen, & Roby, Child Adol Soc Work J, 2019). We briefly describe how these articles fit into the considerable body of CP literature. We then examine some of the findings and strengths of the studies, as well as suggest future research inquiries. Next, we describe the current efforts to change the social norms regarding the reliance on CP in the United States, including the recent statement by the American Academy of Pediatrics opposing CP. Finally, we conclude with a discussion of an emerging, yet promising practice towards changing beliefs and behaviors—the establishment of No Hit Zones (NHZs).

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Correspondence to Viola Vaughan-Eden.

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Conflict of interest

All authors serve on the executive committee of the National Initiative (Summit) to End Corporal Punishment. In addition, Author 1 is President Emerita of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children. Author 2 is President of the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children. Author 3 is Vice President of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children and leads the committee for the No Hit Zone initiative.

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This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

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Vaughan-Eden, V., Holden, G.W. & LeBlanc, S.S. Commentary: Changing the Social Norm about Corporal Punishment. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 36, 43–48 (2019).

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