Parents’ Primary Professional Sources of Parenting Advice Moderate Predictors of Parental Attitudes toward Corporal Punishment

Abstract

Despite the risk it poses to children’s mental and physical health, approval and use of corporal punishment (CP) remains high in the United States. Informed by the Theory of Planned Behavior, we examined potential predictors of attitudes supportive of CP while assessing the moderating effects of parents’ (N = 500) chosen primary professional source of advice regarding child discipline: pediatricians (47.8 %), religious leaders (20.8 %), mental health professionals (MHPs) (n = 18.4 %), or other identified professionals (13.0 %). We conducted a random-digit-dial telephone survey among parents ages 18 and over within New Orleans, LA. The main outcome measure was derived from the Attitudes Toward Spanking scale (ATS). The main “predictors” were: perceived injunctive norms (i.e., perceived approval of CP by professionals; and by family and friends), perceived descriptive norms of family and friends regarding CP, and expected outcomes of CP use. We used multivariate OLS models to regress ATS scores on the predictor variables for each subset of parents based on their chosen professional source of advice. Perceived approval of CP by professionals was the strongest predictor of parental attitudes supportive of CP, except for those seeking advice from MHPs. Perceived injunctive and descriptive norms of family and friends were important, but only for those seeking advice from pediatricians or religious leaders. Positive expected outcomes of CP mattered, but only for those seeking advice from religious leaders or MHPs. In conclusion, the strength and relevance of variables predicting attitudes toward CP varied according to the professional from which the parent was most likely to seek advice.

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Acknowledgments

The authors thank Ana Bales, MPH and Carey Devine for their assistance with this project.

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Correspondence to Catherine A. Taylor.

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Taylor, C.A., McKasson, S., Hoy, G. et al. Parents’ Primary Professional Sources of Parenting Advice Moderate Predictors of Parental Attitudes toward Corporal Punishment. J Child Fam Stud 26, 652–663 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-016-0586-3

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Keywords

  • Corporal punishment
  • Professionals
  • Advice
  • Attitudes
  • Social norms