A cross-cultural investigation into parental physical punishment.
Five studies were carried out to investigate and compare experience of, use of, and
attitudes towards parental physical punishment in the UK and the US (Massachusetts),
and to determine what sort of information about physical punishment was most likely
to persuade respondents to change their views. The respondents for the first four
studies were students, and the respondents in the last study were mothers waiting for
medical appointments for their children. The prevalence of childhood experience of
parental physical punishment, based on respondents' reports of their experiences as
children, was related to country, gender, and parenting characteristics. Attitudes
towards physical punishment were related to country, gender, childhood experience,
and other personal and social characteristics. Although there was no significant
difference in the reported prevalence of experience of childhood physical punishment
between the two countries, the UK respondents, both students and mothers, were
significantly more likely to approve of physical punishment than the US respondents.
The male students were significantly more likely to approve of physical punishment
than the female students. Attitudes towards physical punishment were also found to be
related to general authoritarianism, religious affiliation and beliefs, and social
desirability. Mothers' attitudes towards physical punishment predicted their selfreported
use of physical punishment towards their children. Respondents were more
easily persuaded to become more in favour of physical punishment than to become
less in favour of physical punishment. A preliminary ecological model of attitudes
towards and use of physical punishment is presented.