In this issue

Joint Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children

Divs. 7 and 37 are leading a Joint Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children to review research on spanking and factors that influence attitudes and beliefs about its use.

By Cindy Miller-Perrin, PhD

Divs. 7 (Child) and 37 (Family Policy and Practice) are leading a Joint Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children to review research on spanking and factors that influence attitudes and beliefs about its use. One significant influence on parents' use of spanking is the recommendation of psychologists. Schenck et al. (2000) found no clear consensus among clinical psychologists regarding the advisability of corporal punishment. In the 15 years since this research, however, cultural attitudes have shifted away from spanking, and a growing body of scientific research addresses spanking's impact. To assess psychologists' current views concerning parental use of spanking, members of the task force received a Committee on Division/APA Relations grant to replicate and extend the survey by Schenck et al.

Leaders from 10 APA divisions (3, 7, 8, 9, 37, 41, 43, 45, 53, 56), representing both a child and family practice focus as well as a science and policy focus, are collaborating on the survey project, which assesses division members' current ethical beliefs, attitudes and practices related to parental use of spanking. Each division invited a random sample of 300 of its members to complete the online survey. To date, approximately 850 division members have responded.

The results of the survey will be presented at this year's APA convention as part of the Div. 37 presidential address entitled, “A Survey of Ethical Beliefs, Attitudes, and Professional Practices of Psychologists Regarding Parental Use of Spanking,” scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 6 from 1-1:50 p.m. in Convention Center Room 704. The address will focus on the survey results, particularly findings related to current professional standards and practices surrounding parental use of physical punishment and how these findings inform policy and practice recommendations that will promote positive parenting and family relationships.

The findings will eventually be disseminated in the form of a report to the Joint Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children and a journal article to an APA journal such as the American Psychologist. Knowledge gained from the survey will inform the work of the Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children as well as many APA constituents who seek to understand the effects of spanking. We hope this work, as well as that of the task force, will contribute an important link between science, policy and practice and thereby improve the quality of children's lives