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Explaining Corporal Punishment of Children: A Cross-Cultural Study

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Abstract

Corporal punishment of children is a frequent child-training technique in many societies in the ethnographic record. In other societies it is infrequent or rare. Using a worldwide sample of largely preindustrial societies in this article, we test previous and new theories that might explain the variation. Our multiple regression analyses indicate that frequent corporal punishment of children is predicted by higher levels of social stratification and political integration, and long-term use of an alien currency. These findings are consistent with our theory that societies are likely to practice corporal punishment to prepare children for living in a society with native or imposed (e.g., colonial) power inequality. In addition, corporal punishment appears more likely in societies in which nonrelative caretakers help raise children. And in nonpacified societies, undemocratic political decision making and a culture of violence also predict corporal punishment of children.

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