A Qualitative Analysis of Stay-At-Home Parents’ Spanking Tweets



This qualitative study used Twitter to examine stay-at-home parents’ publicly available postings to Twitter about discipline and spanking. Many adults still support the use of spanking despite a substantial body of evidence demonstrating that spanking is linked to a range of negative child outcomes. Little is currently known about how parents think about spanking as a disciplinary practice and how parents express these beliefs online.


Five million publicly available tweets were collected from self-identified stay-at-home parents. Tweets were screened for discipline and spanking content. A qualitative analysis was conducted on the final set of tweets (N= 648).


Stay-at-home parents were most likely to tweet about information related to discipline and spanking compared to tweets that made up other global themes (e.g., discipline tips). Parents most commonly posted tweets that reflected their anti-spanking beliefs compared to tweets that made up other subthemes (e.g., pro-spanking). Tweets in support of spanking emerged as well, with fathers being more likely than mothers to tweet about pro-spanking beliefs and desires. However, mothers were more likely than fathers to tweet about pro-spanking behaviors.


Our results provide evidence that stay-at-home parents turn to Twitter to obtain disciplinary information and disclose their anti-spanking and pro-spanking beliefs. Anti-spanking tweets potentially reflect changing social norms and suggest that some stay-at-home parents on Twitter may be engaging in selective self-presentation. Thus, Twitter may be one avenue to use for interventions to set social norms that aim to reduce parental corporal punishment.

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Data Availability

The qualitative codebook used for the current study is available at Open Science Framework (https://osf.io/8y2mf). Data could not be made available due to ethical constraints concerning identifiable information, including Twitter handles.


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This manuscript is based upon work supported by the University of Michigan, Rackham Graduate School [Application #185, 2017]. The sponsor was not directly involved in any aspect of the research.


J.Y.L. and T.A. received funding from the University of Michigan Rackham Graduate School as part of the Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop that supported this research.

Author Contributions

J.Y.L. designed the study, collected data, cleaned the data, conducted the main analyses, and wrote the manuscript. A.C.G.K. provided supervision of the main analyses, wrote the manuscript, and edited the manuscript. S.J.L. provided guidance with framing the study using theory, wrote parts of the manuscript, and edited the manuscript. T.A. assisted with cleaning the data. A.L. also assisted with cleaning the data, as well as coding and analyzing the data. P.D.K. provided supervision of the main analyses and edited and reviewed the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Joyce Y. Lee.

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All authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The current study was reviewed by the University of Michigan Health Sciences and Behavioral Sciences Institutional Review Board (IRB) and was considered secondary data analysis (HUM00143436), given the use of publicly available data. As such, the study was considered to be exempt from IRB oversight.

Informed Consent

Given that data were publicly available, informed consent was not directly obtained from participants included in this study. However, consent to collection and use of data was obtained from all individual participants by Twitter per their privacy policy (https://twitter.com/en/privacy).

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Lee, J.Y., Grogan-Kaylor, A.C., Lee, S.J. et al. A Qualitative Analysis of Stay-At-Home Parents’ Spanking Tweets. J Child Fam Stud 29, 817–830 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-019-01691-3

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  • Discipline
  • Corporal punishment
  • Spanking
  • Twitter
  • Stay-at-home parents
  • Social media