Exclusive: For most Americans, spanking is OK, implements are not - Reuters/Ipsos poll

Wed Oct 1, 2014 3:24pm EDT
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By David Bailey

(Reuters) - Nearly seven in 10 Americans believe spanking a child is acceptable at home and a majority say corporal punishment is tolerable provided it does not involve implements such as the one a National Football League star used on his son, a Reuters/Ipsos poll found.

The findings help explain where Americans stand on corporal punishment after the indictment on child abuse charges of Adrian Peterson, a top NFL running back, in a case that sparked a contentious public debate over what is acceptable.

The 29-year-old Minnesota Viking allegedly left bruises and wounds on his 4-year-old son while disciplining him with the whippy end of a tree branch, called a switch, an act that Peterson has publicly admitted to.

The online survey of 3,637 adults found that about 68 percent approved of spanking at home, and that figure varied little between race and income groups.

But there were regional differences. About eight in 10 respondents from the Southwest, which included Peterson's home state of Texas, said corporal punishment should be allowed at home, while just over half of New England respondents held that view.

A majority of respondents, about 60 percent, said corporal punishment was acceptable if it doesn't leave a physical mark, about the same number who said it should be allowed if it doesn't involve an implement such as a belt, cane or paddle.

"I don't care what age the child is or what they did, you don't use anything but your hand. I'm sorry, but that just goes above and beyond as far as I am concerned," said respondent Esther Negrin, 78, of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Negrin said a "swat on the behind" was a very rare occurrence while she was raising her three children.   Continued...

Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson arrives at the 2nd Annual NFL Honors in New Orleans, Louisiana, February 2, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson