Conservative Protestant attitudes toward support for corporal punishment: a replication and extension




McCorstin, Susan

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Social scientists have long concerned themselves with the interconnections between religion and family life, especially the ways in which religiosity affects parental values and childrearing practices. A substantial body of research considers the interplay between theological conservatism and parental disciplinary views and practices. This study investigates religiosity and support for the physical discipline of children in a contemporary context. Objective. The current study is designed to answer the following important research question: Does religion still matter in regards to attitudes toward corporal punishment among U.S. adults in the 21 st century? This analysis partially replicates and extends a pioneering study of conservative Protestant attitudinal support for spanking conducted by Ellison and Sherkat in 1993, providing a more contemporary and holistic understanding of the religious antecedents of such supportive attitudes. Methods. I utilize the 2010 General Social Survey (GSS) to (1) re-examine conservative Protestants' support for corporal punishment, and (2) expand the original argument to include behavioral measures of religiosity as possible predictors of such support. Binary logistic regression, ordered logistic regression, and structural equation modeling are employed to replicate Ellison and Sherkat's original design. Results. Contemporary conservative Protestants remain significantly more likely than those of other denominations to approve of spanking as appropriate discipline. Conservative Protestants' continued support for corporal punishment is based principally their membership in that religious subgroup, certain theological tenets of religious ideology (a belief in Biblical inerrancy, and acceptance that human sinners deserve punishment), and frequent participation in certain religious behaviors, such as prayer and religious service attendance. Conclusion. This study finds no compelling evidence that conservative Protestants have retreated from more traditional positions to more liberal orientations regarding corporal punishment. Implications of these findings and avenues for future research are discussed.


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Religiosity, Childrearing practices, Parental values