When it comes to disciplining children in the U.S., a new study suggests that parents opt for non-physical methods in order to teach their kids a lesson.

The current research, published in Pediatrics, brings forth results that suggest that from the years 1988 to 2011, physical means of disciplining children has decreased while mothers giving their children ‘timeouts’ has increased. This rate held true for all socioeconomic levels. In order to conduct the current study, data from a total of four national studies was observed by a team of researchers. All of the studies asked mothers about how many times they had spanked their children, all kindergarten-aged, during the past week. They were asked what they would hypothetically do to teach their misbehaving children. The choices presented to mothers included talking with their child, sending them to timeout, or using physical means of discipline.

The researchers found out that the rate of median-income mothers that made use of physical punishment reduced from 46% to 21% during the 1988 to 2011 time period. Uniformity was seen across all of the income levels. The mothers that were poorest were more likely to give their children a spanking when compared to mothers that were comparatively wealthier. Approximately 50% mothers spanked their children in 1988. This rate decreased to 30% in 2011. For the wealthiest mothers the rate fell to 12% from 40% during the same time span.


The rate of sending children into timeouts saw an increase. The rate of poorest mothers endorsing timeouts increased to 71% in 2011 compared to the 45% in 1988. The wealthiest mothers saw an increase of 85% in 2011 from 50% in 1988. The gap, dependent on income, with regards to talking to misbehaving children disappeared during the time period observed for the purpose of this research.

A lot of studies have been conducted that show that physically punishing a child doesn’t work. Such means of punishment are also linked to children exhibiting mental health ailments, aggression, antisocial behavior, and experiencing cognitive difficulties. Spanking a child has been strongly opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics since 1998.child3Even though sending kids into timeouts is deemed to be less harmful compared to spanking, the rising rate of sending children to timeouts has been met with a bit of resistance. A lot of parents and experts of child development have shared their views about positive reinforcement being the only way that a child can be shaped into a healthy individual. However, there is also a group of child experts and parents that say that a well-managed timeout has its benefits.

According to Robert E. Larzelere, who is a professor of parenting at the Oklahoma State University, parents need to understand the numerous productive and safe options that are suggested by experts and the correct time these methods should be applied.

Researchers believe that child experts should take into consideration the pressure that parents live under when it comes to suggesting the correct disciplinary tactics for their children. The socioeconomic state of parents plays a role in how they discipline their kids and experts should take all of this information into consideration to promote healthy child growth.