Jennifer Roback Morse

A childless legislator here in California (where else?) has proposed a legislative ban on spanking. Sally Lieber, Democrat (naturally) from Mountain View, which is in Northern California (why am I not surprised?) believes this is a proper function of state government.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, “The bill, which is still being drafted, will be written broadly, she added, prohibiting ‘any striking of a child, any corporal punishment, smacking, hitting, punching, any of that.’ Lieber said it would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail or a fine up to $1,000, although a legal expert advising her on the proposal said first-time offenders would probably only have to attend parenting classes.”

The people of California are understandably outraged at this outrageous assault on parental authority. But there is an even better reason to be outraged: banning spanking is not good for kids. Child rearing experts generally do not agree with a ban on spanking. The "two-swat spank" has been extensively studied. Two swats on a covered bottom do not constitute child abuse, and in fact, can be an important adjunct to reasoning in disciplining a child. The Murky News (as the locals call it: actually, it isn't a bad paper, as MSM outlets go) interviewed one of the leading scholars of corporal punishment, Dr. Robert Larzelere.

“Professor Robert Larzelere, who has studied child discipline for 30 years, said his research shows spanking is fine, as long as it's used sparingly and doesn't escalate to abuse. “If it's used in a limited way,'' the Oklahoma State University professor said, “it can be more effective than almost any other type of punishment.'' He added that children 18 months old or younger shouldn't be spanked at all, because they can't understand why it's happening. As for Lieber's proposal, the professor said: ``I think this proposal is not just a step too far, it's a leap too far. At least from a scientific perspective there really isn't any research to support the idea that this would make things better for children.''

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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