ERIC Number: EJ698102
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2004-Dec
Reference Count: N/A
''I've Tried the Switch but He Laughs through the Tears'' The Use and Conceptualization of Corporal Punishment during the Machine Age, 1924-1939
Davis, P. W.; Chandler, J. L.; LaRossa, R.
Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, v28 n12 p1291-1310 Dec 2004
Objective: To examine attitudes, conflicts, images, circumstances, and time-period effects associated with corporal punishment and other forms of adult-to-child violence during the early 20th century in the United States. Method: A sample of 147 letters, referencing corporal punishment and dating from 1924 to 1939, were analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative techniques. The letters were addressed to Angelo Patri (1876-1965), a popular child-rearing expert during the interwar years (also known as the Machine Age), and written primarily by middle class parents with everyday worries about child rearing and proper discipline. Results: People who sought advice emphasized the practical significance of corporal punishment over and above the idea that it violated children's rights to be protected against harm. One in four letters cited conflicts with significant others about corporal punishment. Generally, children were perceived as frail, defiant, or feral. Rarely, were they seen as devilish or, conversely, innocent. Children's disobedience and disrespect were cited more than other misbehaviors as reasons for corporal punishment. Age and gender of the focal child varied by time period when letters from the 1920s and 1930s were compared. Conclusions: A full understanding of parent-to-child violence cannot be achieved without a firm grasp of its genealogy. The growing popularity of child psychology during the Machine Age had a measurable impact on how children were viewed. A utilitarian frame of interpretation was an important part of the everyday ''work'' associated with child rearing during this time, foreshadowing the tendency today to emphasize efficacy more than rights when evaluating the legitimacy of corporal punishment.
Descriptors: Middle Class, Child Psychology, Child Rearing, Childrens Rights, Punishment, Family Violence
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United States