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SPANKING JUSTIFIED SOMETIMES, 70% OF FAMILY PHYSICIANS SAY

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The biblical warning about sparing the rod and spoiling the child still carries weight with many doctors, despite a lot of modern evidence that spanking can be harmful.

Seventy percent of family physicians and 59 percent of pediatricians said spanking is justified as a disciplinary tool, at least sometimes, according to a survey of 619 doctors in the two specialities in Ohio."I've got to believe they aren't terribly aware" of the many studies indicating corporal punishment is less effective than other methods of discipline and is sometimes harmful, said Dr. Kenelm F. McCormick, the survey's author.

The surgeon general in 1985 said corporal punishment should be discouraged at home and forbidden in schools. The 41,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics also has urged that it be outlawed in schools and avoided by parents.

The survey presented doctors with nine scenarios of childhood misbehavior - three infractions for three ages. The misbehavior ranged from refusing to go to bed on time to crossing the street without looking. Ages ranged from 2 to 8.

McCormick sent questionnaires to 800 family physicians and 400 pediatricians randomly chosen from the Ohio State Medical Board roster in 1991. A total of 619 replied.

McCormick, a family practitioner at Barberton Citizen's Hospital in Ohio, said that he doesn't know whether the findings hold for doctors nationwide but that many he has met from other states think similarly.

His findings are published in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.

Dr. Michael Fleming of the 73,000-member American Academy of Family Physicians, which opposes corporal punishment in schools, said the issue is different in homes.

"I don't think it's appropriate for anyone to say corporal punishment is good or bad on a global basis," he said.

"I have a serious problem with somebody beating their child. I don't have a serious problem with somebody who wants to punish their child by giving him a pat on the bottom."