Thai Parents Divided on Physically Punishing Children

A woman shows wounds on the body of her 7-year-old son allegedly inflicted "as a punishment" by his stepfather in Prachinburi province on March 21, 2018. Police later charged the stepfather with physical assaults. Image: Channel 3.

BANGKOK — Smacking a kid’s palm is the most popular form of corporal punishment for disciplining children, according to a survey of almost a thousand Thai parents.

In a survey of 999 Thai parents by YouGov, 29 percent of Thai parents used palm-smacking to discipline their children. Overall, some 80 percent of Thai parents use physical punishment.

Two in five believe that physical punishment should be illegal, although about the same amount believe that physical punishment is normal. The remaining one in five are undecided.

“I just smack my children on the hand. There’s no need to use canes or tools to punish. They’re just children,” said Siriporn Suthiprapa, a 43-year-old secretary with a 14-year-old daughter and 11-year-old son. “If you make them bleed, that’s definitely wrong.”


The second most popular physical disciplinary method was caning (23 percent), then pinching (13 percent). Only 5 percent preferred slapping, while the least popular method was making the child eat unpleasant substances such as soap or chili (4 percent).

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In contrast to her acceptance of palm-smacking, Siriporn supports outlawing more violent methods such as caning.

“Some parents aren’t teaching with their heart, but just releasing their rage. They grab whatever they have on hand to hit the kid,” Siriporn said.

The most recent case of sensational domestic abuse to make headlines involved a 23-year-old Samut Prakan mother who, along with her new 26-year-old husband, hit her 5-year-old daughter to the point of hospitalization. Both were arrested and charged with domestic assault.

Mothers are slightly more likely than fathers to discipline their children using physical methods, the survey also found (82 percent vs. 76 percent).

The survey was conducted by UK-based market research company YouGov, which from June 26 to July 3 randomly selected parents from a pool of 165,000 Thais who signed up to participate in return for compensation. YouGov states the study has a margin of error of 3 percent.

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“While it appears most Thai parents are comfortable with physically disciplining their children at home, they are split over whether the law should come into play,” Jake Gammon from YouGov commented.

Seven out of ten (71 percent) of parents answered that physical punishment is “sometimes necessary.” The top three activities that surveyed parents viewed as warranting physical punishment were stealing, violence, and bullying.

The study found no correlating factors between support for physical discipline and socio-economic status. Nor was there a correlation between support for physical discipline and the age of parents.


The survey did not include questions on corporal punishment outside of the home, such as in schools. However, headlines regularly feature stories about teachers, often at public schools, hitting students. On July 5, a sixth-grade girl in Nakhon Nayok alleged that she had to get three stitches after her teacher hit her with a stick on the head for copying their friend’s homework.

According to a Time article in 2014 by psychologist Jared Pingleton, spanking can be an “appropriate form of child discipline,” but only for cases of “willful disobedience or defiance of authority—never for mere childish irresponsibility.” Parents with difficulty controlling their tempers should refrain from corporal punishment, Pingleton said, since “it should never be administered harshly, impulsively, or with the potential to cause physical harm.” Pingleton recommended stopping the practise of spanking by adolescence.

A more recent publication in November by the American Academy of Pediatrics, however, found that spanking may not decrease negative behaviors and might instead increase aggression. The study instead recommended non-physical disciplinary methods such as time-outs, ignoring bad behavior, and positive reinforcement.