Spanking Statistics

This is post 4 of 4 on Bullying. You might want to go back and read the previous parts:

Here are the main points from the previous posts:

  • Bullying is the use of force, threat, or coercion to dominate others.
  • Spanking is the use of violence against children in an attempt to coerce a child’s behavior.
  • If you spank your child, you are a bully.
  • Normal parenting is usually just parents bullying a child.
  • Almost all, if not all parents, are sometimes bully parents.
  • Punishments and rewards are examples of bully parenting.

General Social Survey

Since 1972, the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey (GSS) has asked people a ton of questions, trying to determine how Americans feel about everything: parenting, crime, abortion, mental health, welfare, etc. You name it, they’ve probably asked it. In 1986 they started asking this question:

Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard, spanking?

Lets make sure we understand this. We’re not talking about a little swat on the butt. We’re talking about a “good, hard, spanking.”

What percentage of american think that children need to be hit, I mean spanked? Here’s how the responses averaged out from 1986 to 2014:

Answer Percent Combined Percent
Strongly Agree 26.8% 74%
Agree 47.2%
Disagree 19% 26%
Strongly Disagree 7%

According to the General Social Survey, 74% of Americans agree with hitting, I mean spanking, children! What!? I find this number shocking and appalling. This is not a fringe group of people who spank their child in the back-woods of West Virginia (no offense intended to any West Virginians), some freakish religious cult or just a bunch of terrorists. This is 74% of all Americans and no matter how you slice it, this means spanking is mainstream.


But its improving!

Another interesting look at this is how Americans’ opinion of spanking has changed over time. One could argue that since 1986, the acceptance of spanking has gone down, and it has. But in 2014 a whopping 70% still thought it was okay to hit a child!

What about before 1986? I’ll let you read the book Family Violence Against Children, by Frehsee, Horn and Bussmann, published in 1996. This book is a collection of interesting and relevant articles and it refers to some data on spanking before 1986. In particular, here is some more data:

  • A 1968 survey found that 94% of Americans approved of spanking.
  • A 1975 survey found that 77% of Americans believed that “slapping or spanking a 12-year old who misbehaved is normal and necessary.”
  • Prior to 1980, more than 90% of parents used corporal punishment on toddlers and 50% used corporal punishment on young teens.

There are probably other sources of pre-1986 data on spanking, but with 94% approval in 1968, we can probably safely say that nearly everyone approved of spanking prior to 1968. We can also add this additional data to our plot and still see that the decline of spanking approval isn’t really significant.


What if 74% of Americans . . . . . . .

Lets try to put this 74% number in perspective. How would you respond to the following charts. Don’t worry, the data they are describing isn’t real, I just made this up for shock value, but what if it was real?

spanking-fiction-joinedThe points I’m trying to make:

  • Spanking/hitting children should not be acceptable just like we think bullying is not acceptable, slavery is not acceptable and drunk driving is not acceptable.
  • We should not and would not expect 100% of Americans to be against hitting/spanking children, but we should be shocked that 74% of Americans agree with hitting/spanking children.


Slicing and Dicing the Data

I suspect you are thinking one of two things:

  • If you’re a spanker, then you’re probably thinking I’m being ridiculous by being appalled by all the adults hitting children. If you are still reading, you probably think that spanking is in a different category from hitting a child. If you haven’t already, please go back and start reading all my posts on bullying, starting with Bullying Part 1: Bullying.
  • If you’re not a spanker, then you’re probably thinking that the spankers are a bunch of people who aren’t like you. At least this is what I thought.

We’re going to explore how different groups feel about spanking. This analysis was inspired by reading Americans’ Opinions On Spanking at With some digging you can find similar data elsewhere. What you’ll find below is a little more extensive and I like my conclusions better than those I read elsewhere.

Finally, before we start slicing the data, if you have any questions, you can find more about the General Social Survey and read about the actual survey questions here: GSS.

Spoiler Alert: It doesn’t matter how the data is sliced–nearly everyone seems to approve of spanking.





Country of Origin


Region of Country













Income, Career, Housing
















Other Opinions




Groups of people who don’t spank?

Looking at the charts above, there are some groups that seem to spank less than others. For example, about 50% of people who identify as Jewish seem to agree with spanking. But that’s still half these people who approve of hitting children!

We could go further and do slices of slices. For example, we could look at Jews who have a college degree. For a variety of reasons, I purposely decided not to slice the data too much in this way. For example, if you slice like this too much, eventually you will just end up with only a few data points, which won’t give an accurate representation of the group. Here’s the graph of college educated Jews. It is interesting, but you can see some issues in the graph created by slicing in this way.


The point is, no matter how the data is sliced, we’re talking about huge groups of people who think it is okay to hit children. This, to me, seem appalling and unacceptable.

What about Other Countries?

Spanking is actually illegal in many countries. You can read all about it at Wikipedia’s article Corporal Punishment in the Home. The following nice maps can be found there:

Domestic Corporal Punishment Illegal
Corporal Punishment in Europe
Green=Illegal in School and Home
Blue=Illegal at School
Red=Legal Everywhere
Corporal Punishment In The United States
Green=Illegal in School and Home
Blue=Illegal at School
Red=Legal Everywhere

In 1979 Sweden banned corporal punishment. There are several discussions of this ban and the resulting shifts in the Swedes’ attitude towards spanking in the 1996 book I mentioned earlier: Family Violence Against Children.

Should Spanking be Illegal?

I am a huge supporter in trying to shift the attitude of the American people so that spanking is no longer so accepted. One could easily argue that spanking should be made illegal. There are currently several advocacy groups that are pushing to make corporal punishment illegal in all countries. Here are a few:

We should also mention the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child statement to end corporal punishment worldwide.

BUT, should spanking be illegal? I don’t know. I would have serious concerns making spanking illegal including the following:

  • If spanking is made illegal then we are essentially saying that parents should be bullied into not bullying their children. In this case, the parents would be bullied by the government and in particular, by police with guns. I have a hard time wanting to advocate for more violence.
  • There are already child abuse laws that are severely abused, especially in divorce custody cases. In these awful cases, an enormous amount of damage is done to families and, in particular, children. Making spanking illegal would almost certainly make these sorts of abuses even worse.

What the data says to me

Here’s what the spanking data says to me:

  • Nearly everyone approves of parents bullying children.
  • Spanking trends may be trending slightly down, but it sure looks like spanking is here to stay.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

  • Almost everyone approves of parental bullying.
  • You are probably a parental bully.
  • Please stop bullying your children!
  • Help other parents understand parental bullying.

This Series of Posts on Bullying:

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