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Ellison, Christopher G. & Bradshaw, Matt (2009). Religious Beliefs, Sociopolitical Ideology, and Attitudes toward Corporal Punishment. Journal of Family Issues, 30(3), 320-340.


The use of corporal punishment to discipline children remains a perennial focus of controversy. Several studies published in the 1990s linked support for, and use of, corporal punishment with religious factors, particularly core doctrines of conservative (i.e., evangelical and fundamentalist) Protestantism. This study reexamines the relationships between religious beliefs and attitudes toward corporal punishment using data from the 1998 National Opinion Research Center General Social Survey, which contains an extensive special module of items tapping aspects of religious doctrine. The authors also consider the implications of the "culture wars" thesis, which suggests that sociopolitical ideology—in addition to, or instead of—religious factors may shape corporal punishment attitudes. Findings underscore the importance of conservative Protestant beliefs, especially hierarchical images of God and belief in Hell, but not denominational affiliation. Sociopolitical conservatism is independently related to support for corporal punishment, but controlling for ideology does not substantially reduce the estimated net effects of religious factors.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Journal of Family Issues


Ellison, Christopher G.
Bradshaw, Matt