Helping Parents Spare the Rod: Addressing Their Unbearable Emotions

Leon Hoffman, Tracy A. Prout

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


In this paper we review some of the literature on spanking, with an emphasis on its well-documented, negative sequalae. We discuss how clinicians need to appreciate that for both parents and children, fear and other unpleasant feeling states and a poor sense of themselves leads to a sense of vulnerability. This vulnerability is defended against by acting inappropriately powerful: disruption by the child and counteracting the child’s aggression with physical punishment by the parent. Empathizing with the parent’s sense of vulnerability can help the parents appreciate the child’s sense of vulnerability and minimize corporal punishment. A clinical example illustrates this perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-61
Number of pages16
JournalPsychoanalytic Study of the Child
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Laius complex
  • Spanking
  • affect regulation
  • corporal punishment
  • disruptive behaviors
  • mentalization
  • parental ambivalence
  • reflective functioning
  • triangle of conflict
  • vulnerability


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