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Does Physical Punishment Have Different Effects in Different Cultural Contexts?

Does Physical Punishment Have Different Effects in Different Cultural Contexts?

Psychologists typically recommend against the use of physical punishment with children, largely due to research showing a relationship between the use of physical punishment and increased aggressiveness on the part of a child. In addition, as you have seen in this chapter, there are many alternative ways to manage behavior successfully.

As is the case with many types of psychological research, however, the classic studies on physical punishment and child aggression were conducted with middle-class, white American families. How representative are these samples of families in general? Some researchers believe that they are not representative and that physical punishment effects depend very much on cultural context (Deater-Deckard & Dodge, 1997). These researchers believe that physical punishment in cultures in which it is considered “normal” has a much less detrimental effect than in cultures where it is considered less normal.

Racial and ethnic groups vary in the frequency with which they use physical punishment (Gershoff, Lansford, Sexton, Davis-Kean, & Sameroff, 2012). In a sample of over 11,000 U.S. families with kindergarten-aged children, rates of spanking were generally high (about 80%) across all groups, with 89% of African Americans, 79% of whites, 80% of Hispanics, and 73% of Asians reporting having spanked their child. When asked if they had spanked their child in the previous week, 40% of African Americans, 28% of Hispanics, 24% of whites, and 23% of Asians reported that they had done so.

Does spanking have different effects on children’s behavior across the racial and ethnic groups due to these different frequencies? Gershoff et al. (2012) concluded that it does not. Across all racial and ethnic groups, spanking was associated with higher levels of aggressive behaviors in the child, which in turn leads to more spanking in a “coercive cycle” of parenting.

Psychologists have wondered if spanking had different effects within different racial and ethnic contexts, but it does not. Spanking is associated with higher levels of child aggression, regardless of racial or ethnic context.

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While many lines of research benefit from considerations of diversity, the message here is not modified by racial or ethnic identity—spanking children not only fails to decrease negative behaviors, but it actually appears to increase them.

In early industrial settings, workers were often paid by the piece, a real-world example of the use of an FR schedule. In other words, workers would be paid every time they produced a fixed number of products or parts on an assembly line. Most workers find this system less than ideal. If the equipment malfunctions, the worker cannot earn money. Lunch breaks would also then be viewed as loss of income rather than a helpful time of rest. Some examples of piecework remain today, including the work of most physicians, who get paid by the procedure, and service workers like plumbers or hairstylists, who get paid for finishing a specific task.

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