Attitudes, knowledge, practices, and ethical beliefs of psychologists related to spanking: A survey of American Psychological Association division members.

The current study examined attitudes, ethical beliefs, and professional practices related to spanking in a sample of American Psychological Association (APA) division members and represented a replication and extension of a similar survey conducted 18 years ago. We administered an online survey to 3,000 randomly selected members of 10 APA divisions. A total of 782 members completed the survey for a response rate of 28%. Findings indicated that overwhelmingly, psychologists are opposed to parental use of spanking. The majority of APA division members believe that spanking is a bad disciplinary technique (83%), that it is harmful to children (71%), and that mental health professionals should not advise parents to use spanking under any circumstances (72%). Of psychologists who directly advise parents about child rearing, 86% indicated that they never recommend that parents spank their children. Furthermore, 76% believed it was unethical for a mental health professional to suggest spanking to a parent. The majority of psychologists surveyed also believe that the APA should adopt policies opposing the recommendation of physical punishment and its use by parents. Although the majority of psychologists are aware of the research on spanking outcomes, a substantial minority are unsure about spanking’s impact on children’s development. Multiple regressions revealed significant associations among the recommendations of psychologists, personal attitudes, ethical beliefs, and experiences with spanking. These findings suggest a significant shift in the opinion of psychologists in the past 18 years. We discuss these findings in terms of their implications for policy and practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)