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Corporal Punishment: Current Rates from a National Survey



To assess the prevalence of corporal punishment usage in the US population.


This study was based on a 2014 cross-sectional, telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of US households with children. Reports about spanking of 0–9 year olds were obtained from parents, while reports about 10–17 year olds were obtained from the youth themselves.


The survey suggested that a majority of children in the US were not subject to corporal punishment in 2014. The rate was 49% in the past year for children ages 0–9, 23% for youth 10–17 and 37% overall. Rates of spanking were lower for girls compared to boys, Northeasterners compared to Southerners, and whites compared to blacks. They were also lower among those with a graduate education, and families with fewer than 3 children. The proportion of children subject to corporal punishment had declined by 2014 compared to other national surveys conducted in 1975 and 1985. This is in line with other studies showing declines of 26–40% in the spanking of kindergarden age children from 1988 to 2011.


The trends suggest a continuing reduction of spanking in the population. Because of growing research and advocacy about this practice both nationally and internationally, it may be that awareness is having some impact and it will continue to decline.

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Author Contributions

D.F.: obtained funding, helped to design the study, develop the questionnaire, conceptualized the data analyses, and wrote the majority of the text paper. H.T.: collaborated with the funding, design, questionnaire, conceptualization of the data analysis and review of the text. B.K.W.: analyzed the data. J.V.: collaborated with conceptualization and completion the data analysis and writing of the study. S.H.: collaborated with the design, questionnaire, and conceptualization of the data analusis.

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Correspondence to David Finkelhor.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were conducted with the approval and under the supervision of the Institional Review Board of the University of New Hampshire.

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All participants were read consent statements and asked to confirm their approval. In the case of the interviews with the 10–17 year olds this involves consent from the parents and a separate assent from the youth.

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Finkelhor, D., Turner, H., Wormuth, B.K. et al. Corporal Punishment: Current Rates from a National Survey. J Child Fam Stud 28, 1991–1997 (2019).

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  • Spanking
  • Parenting
  • Hitting
  • Physical abuse
  • Smacking
  • Beating