PERIODIC SURVEY OF FELLOWS
American Academy of Pediatrics
Division of Child Health Research
This report presents findings from Periodic Survey #38 on
pediatricians' attitudes and counseling practices regarding corporal
punishment in the home initiated by the Committee on Psychosocial
Aspects of Child and Family Health (COPACFH). These data were collected
to help guide the COPACFH in assessing the need for developing further
education in this area. The survey was conducted from October through
March 1998; after six mailings we received a response rate of 62.0%.
Other questions on this survey addressed pediatricians' experiences with
violence-related injuries, including child abuse, domestic violence and
community violence. These analyses are based on responses from 603
post-residency Fellows who provide direct patient care.
Opinion Regarding Use of Corporal Punishment
Opinion about the use of corporal punishment in the home varies.
Findings reflect the complicated nature of the issue: most
pediatricians cannot choose a simple "for" or "against" statement.
- 53.4% of pediatricians say they are generally opposed to the use of
corporal punishment by parents, although they believe an occasional
spanking under certain circumstances can be an effective form of
- 31.4% of pediatricians are completely opposed to the use of corporal punishment by parents under any circumstances.
- 14% of pediatricians say they support, in principle, the limited use of corporal punishment by parents.
- Only 1.5% are unsure regarding their stance on the use of corporal punishment.
Current Practices Regarding Counseling on Discipline
When counseling parents on disciplining their child, nearly all
pediatricians recommend parents use positive reinforcement of good
behavior (99.1%) and non-physical methods of punishment for negative
behavior, such as time out or removal of privileges (97.8%). More than
half (53.4%) discuss the pros/cons of corporal punishment with parents.
A large portion of pediatricians (43.7%) say they meet with some
parents to change their discipline practices.
Many pediatricians are counseling parents to limit or eliminate the use of corporal punishment:
- About half of pediatricians (49.0%) discourage use of corporal punishment under any circumstance.
- Four out of ten pediatricians (42.3%) report they recommend
corporal punishment be used only under limited circumstances or/and
with specific conditions or rules.
- Nine percent of pediatricians make no recommendation regarding corporal punishment.
Only 35.3% of pediatricians say all or most parents seek their
recommendation regarding discipline; 52.7% say some parents do so and
12% say none of their patients' parents seek their recommendation
Views on Issues Surrounding Corporal Punishment
- Most pediatricians (82.7%) are comfortable discussing corporal punishment with parents; 13.6% are unsure.
- More than three-fourths believe they have adequate knowledge
of the effectiveness of various child discipline methods (78.2%) and
adequate skills to counsel families on discipline methods (76.2%).
- Three-fourths of pediatricians (76.5%) are interested in further training in working with families on their discipline methods
- One-half (50.3%) of pediatricians believe pediatricians must try to eliminate the practice of spanking as a form of discipline.
- Four in ten pediatricians (42.5%) say there is insufficient
time in health maintenance visits to address discipline issues; 34.3%
think there is sufficient time.
Personal Experiences With Corporal Punishment
Three-fourths of pediatricians (73.9%) report being spanked as a
child; only 11.6% say it was the form of discipline most commonly used
by their parents.
Only 35.4% of pediatricians say they use spanking as one form of
discipline with their own children, and almost no pediatricians (less
than 1 percent) say spanking is the most commonly used method of