Spanking Survey—Results

On a recent Dinner Table, we asked the question, “How okay is it for a parent to spank their kid?”

Over 400 people chimed in, with strong opinions across the spectrum. We wanted to know more, so we created a survey and sent it out to the Dinner Table email list.

2,657 people from 85 different countries took the survey (43% from the US, 57% from outside the US), including my new favorite person, someone who submitted their responses from the geographic South Pole in Antarctica.

Below is an analysis of the results, put together and written by Alicia.1


The Survey

The survey had 13 total questions. The main question—“How okay is it for a parent to spank their kid?”—had five possible responses:

  • Not okay under any circumstances
  • Only okay in an extreme situation (e.g. child runs into street)
  • Neutral / I don’t know
  • Okay on occasion, when necessary
  • Completely okay. Spanking is an important tool of good parenting.

The Results

1. Age = Experience. There was a correlation between age and having been spanked: older respondents were significantly more likely to have been spanked at least once as a kid. You can see the green slowly taking over bigger pieces of each column as you move right on this graph:


And the difference is even more clear when you split everyone into two groups—over and under 40:


2. Experience = Attitude. People’s opinions on spanking pretty reliably matched up with their own experiences. This graph shows answers to “Is it okay for a parent to spank their child?”, where each column represents a response to “Were you spanked as a child?”:


The most popular opinion for each group was the one that corresponded to their experience—if someone was never spanked as a child, they probably said that it was never okay for a parent to spank their child.2 This is true for every group except the people who were regularly spanked. Even though they were more accepting of spanking than people who were rarely or never spanked as kids, the regularly-spanked-as-kids participants most commonly said that spanking is never okay—the same most common response as the group that was never spanked.

3. Age ≠ Attitude. Being older correlated with having been spanked, and having been spanked correlated with approval of spanking as a parenting tool. But then these two graphs look the same:


Makes sense when you remember that the downward trend in being spanked had to start with a generation of parents that decided to stop spanking their kids.

Some other things:

  • Females were more likely than males to say they were regularly spanked and more likely to say it’s never okay; males were more likely to say they were never spanked at all. (This was still statistically significant even when I filtered out respondents over 40 to control for the fact that the females who took the survey were generally older.)


  • There was no correlation between parenthood and any particular opinion on spanking—respondents with kids of their own were just as likely to condemn (or approve of) spanking as those who didn’t have kids.
  • Judging by comments on the survey, “gun” is a US American term, and “handgun” or “firearm” are more universal.


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  1. Alicia is our very awesome new Manager of Lots of Things, whose addition to the team has brought the number of full-time people working on Wait But Why from one to two. Kind of a huge deal. Thanks, Patreon pledgers.

  2. Of 545 people who had never been spanked as a child, zero thought it was “completely okay” as a parenting tool.

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