Objective: The purpose of this study was to determine whether or not family physicians and pediatricians support the use of corporal punishment. The frequency with which these physicians offer anticipatory guidance on discipline was also studied.
Design: Self-report survey, mailed to study participants.
Participants: The sample for this study was 800 family physicians and 400 pediatricians, randomly selected from the Ohio State Medical Board's roster of family physicians and pediatricians. Physicians with a subspecialty were excluded. Participants who did not return their surveys received a second, and if necessary, a third mailing of the survey. After three mailings, a total of 619 physicians (61%) completed a survey.
Main outcome measure: Participants were considered to support corporal punishment if they would tell a parent in their medical practice that spanking would be an appropriate response to any one of a series of childhood misbehaviors presented in the survey.
Results: Of family physicians, 70% (95% confidence interval [CI], 66% to 75%) support use of corporal punishment. Of pediatricians, 59% (95% CI, 52% to 66%) support corporal punishment. Of pediatricians, 90% (95% CI, 86% to 94%) indicated that they include discipline issues either always or most of the time when providing anticipatory guidance to parents. Significantly fewer family physicians (52%; 95% CI, 47% to 57%) indicated that they discuss discipline either always or most of the time when providing anticipatory guidance (P less than .01).
Conclusions: Most family physicians and pediatricians support the use of corporal punishment in spite of evidence that it is neither effective nor necessary, and can be harmful. Pediatricians offer anticipatory guidance on discipline more often than family physicians.