This qualitative study used Twitter to examine stay-at-home parents' publicly available postings to Twitter about discipline and spanking. Many adults still support the use of spanking despite a substantial body of evidence demonstrating that spanking is linked to a range of negative child outcomes. Little is currently known about how parents think about spanking as a disciplinary practice and how parents express these beliefs online.
Five million publicly available tweets were collected from self-identified stay-at-home parents. Tweets were screened for discipline and spanking content. A qualitative analysis was conducted on the final set of tweets (N= 648).
Stay-at-home parents were most likely to tweet about information related to discipline and spanking compared to tweets that made up other global themes (e.g., discipline tips). Parents most commonly posted tweets that reflected their anti-spanking beliefs compared to tweets that made up other subthemes (e.g., pro-spanking). Tweets in support of spanking emerged as well, with fathers being more likely than mothers to tweet about pro-spanking beliefs and desires. However, mothers were more likely than fathers to tweet about pro-spanking behaviors.
Our results provide evidence that stay-at-home parents turn to Twitter to obtain disciplinary information and disclose their anti-spanking and pro-spanking beliefs. Anti-spanking tweets potentially reflect changing social norms and suggest that some stay-at-home parents on Twitter may be engaging in selective self-presentation. Thus, Twitter may be one avenue to use for interventions to set social norms that aim to reduce parental corporal punishment.