Date Approved

2009

Degree Type

Open Access Senior Honors Thesis

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Dr. Alida Westman

Abstract

I reviewed the literature on discipline to discover which factors change reliance on spanking as a disciplinary strategy, and I compared my reaction patterns to them. For a significant period of time I was a single parent of two children, but now I have a very supportive partner. Pinderhughes, Bates, Dodge, Pettit, and Zelli (2008) found that the use of physical discipline is higher for single parents, when there are a large number of children, and unplanned children. This makes sense. A single parent is responsible for every bill, meal, and other chore that needs to be done. As a result, there is less patience for children’s misbehavior. Further, the amount of work and stress I experienced increased exponentially as the number of children went from one to two; therefore, it makes a great deal of sense to me that a larger number of children would be even more stressful. Further, I found out first hand that an unplanned pregnancy can be very stressful, and I found that when I was under stress, I had less patience for a child acting out. Barnett (2008) found that distress can be due to economic pressure, and this too fits with my experience. When more bills were to be paid than I had money coming in, I felt very stressed. Martorell and Bugental (2006) found that distress can be due to lack of support in a marriage and a sense of powerlessness or lack of control. I could not establish a good relationship with the children’s father, and the lack of support from him made life difficult. There was no one to listen or to help out when the children’s misbehavior was stressful. To endure the same things everyday for extended periods of time also led to feelings of powerlessness. Many times when I would try hard to get ahead in work or the relationship with the father of my children I was set back by another uncontrollable event. When the children were sick I would miss work and loose income, and many illnesses spread from one child to the other, leading to more lost time at work. I was passed up for promotions and raises because of lost time from work. Mirowski and Ross (2003) found that distress is lessened by emotional support from family, friends, or a significant other. This is very, very true! I am no longer a single parent, and I have someone who can help me calm down or take over when I have become too frustrated. A factor not mentioned in the literature is education as a source of hope. I am in college, and I can see a better life in the future. So it is not simply that a more highly educated mother does not rely on spanking as much (Barnett, 2008; Mirowsky & Ross, 2003), but education as a process is a very positive force in my life. Now that I have monetary support and social support, I am much more patient with my children, more likely to use time out and talking with them instead of spanking. Thus the literature fits my experience. These findings suggest that supporting parents and alleviating parental distress is very important for promoting a more patient teaching style of parenting.

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