Corporal Punishment at Home

by: Dan Florell, Ph.D.

This week’s episode looks at home corporal punishment is done in the homes of young children.

We are featuring a journal article this week titled Eavesdropping on the family: A pilot investigation of corporal punishment in the home. The authors used audio recorders to monitor 33 mothers with young children during the early evening hours to see how they resolved their children’s misbehavior.

The authors found that most mothers used a verbal warning at the first sign of misbehavior. Within 30 seconds of the misbehavior, 45% of the mothers used corporal punishment. The misbehaviors that most often triggered the use of corporal punishment was noncompliance to parent commands due to violations of social conventions. These violations included sucking their fingers, eating improperly, and getting out of a chair when they were not supposed to.

The use of corporal punishment typically consisted of a child being hit once or twice for each incident and occurred with little warning. Within 10 minutes of the use of corporal punishment, three-quarters of the children misbehaved again. This points to the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment as a long term solution for minimizing future misbehavior.

The takeaway is that corporal punishment continues to be frequently used with mothers of young children. Rather than being used as a last resort, it is often used as a second option which occurs quickly after a verbal reprimand and with little warning to the child. Finally, the use of corporal punishment is ineffective in discouraging future misbehavior as the misbehavior occurred again within 10 minutes of the use of corporal punishment. Educators and health professionals should use studies such as this one to encourage parents to use alternative discipline strategies that have proven to be more effective, such as timeout.

That concludes this webcast of the School Mental Health Minute. Come back next week and thanks for watching.


Holden, G.W., Williamson, P.A., & Holland, G.W.O. (2014). Eavesdropping on the family: A pilot investigation of corporal punishment in the home. Journal of Family Psychology, 28, 401-406.

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