published on December 14, 2016
Susan B. Ridgely
When Pain Becomes Symbolic of Commitment
The Pratice of Spanking Among Adults and Children and “Focus on the Family” Childrearing Literature
In this article, I use the narrations of Focus on the Family users to argue that in this community spanking has moved from a disciplinary technique to a symbolic religious practice that embodies their commitments to parental authority, traditional families, and intergenerational connections. What matters, then, is not that the physical practice of spanking occurs, but that these families embrace a corporal punishment based philosophy of discipline. Making this choice positions them in opposition to what they perceived to be an undisciplined liberal mainstream society in which the lack of submission to authority has led to the destruction of the family. Although support of spanking is universal, how that support is expressed and enacted is far from monolithic. The urgency to support spanking seems to ebb and flow over time as families, such the families who use Focus on the Family materials, respond to their changing contexts.