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04/09/2020 | 09:01am EDT

NEW YORK, April 09, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Large percentages of Americans report they’re unlikely to confront a parent or tell child protection officials if they see a parent excessively spanking or physically punishing a child, according to a nationwide survey by The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC), the nation’s oldest child protection agency.

The survey of 1,004 American adults was conducted March 27-29, 2020, in the midst of the Coronavirus crisis and official stay-at-home advisories. The survey, which is projectable to the American public with a margin of error of +/- 4.3 percentage points, was fielded to mark Child Abuse Prevention Month, April.

“Clearly, too few Americans are willing to intervene when they see someone hitting or abusing a child. This is exceptionally troubling now, during the pandemic stay-at-home orders, when parents are under tremendous stress and anxiety, paired with loss of work and financial strains – a period when tempers can flair,” said Mary Pulido, PhD., Executive Director of The NYSPCC. “Child protection professionals are very concerned that child abuse may increase during the pandemic. This is similar to the concerns being raised about domestic violence.”

The survey found that:

  • Only 21% of American adults say they’re very likely to have a direct conversation with a parent they know about his or her behavior if they learned that the parent was excessively spanking or physically punishing his or her child. (31% say they’d be somewhat likely to confront the parent, and 37% say they’d be unlikely to do so.)
  • Only 19% of adults say they’re very likely to report the parent who is excessively spanking or physically punishing their child to child protective services. (34% say they’d be somewhat likely to do so, and 34% say they’d be unlikely to do so.)
  • Only 36% of adults say they are very likely to call 911 or report to the police if they saw a stranger excessively spanking or physically punishing a child. (33% say they’d be somewhat likely to do, and 31% said they’d be unlikely to do so.)

The survey also reports on the reasons Americans give for being reluctant to call out or report abuse. Nearly six out 10 (58%) say it’s because they’re concerned it would make it worse for the child, and 35% say it’s because intervening might put them or their family at risk of being harmed. Thirty percent say the reason is “it’s none of my business.” The NYSPCC and all other leading child protection organizations say it is imperative to report any and all abuse of children.

“The public needs to realize that younger children are at particularly high risk, as they don’t have the ability to tell someone what is happening,” Dr. Pulido said. “If what you see in public is enough to even make you think about calling the authorities, think of what that child could be enduring at home, behind closed doors. It’s everyone’s responsibility to keep children safe, so please take action if you believe a child is at risk and make the call.”

Pulido points out that child protection services are open and operating during the pandemic and that people should call 911 if they witness abuse. In addition, the National Child Abuse Hotline is open at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). There is a list of all states’ individual hotlines here.

Among other insights from the survey:

  • Parents with children under age 3 (38%) and Hispanics (37%) are the most likely groups to say they would have a direct conversation with a parent they believe is excessively spanking or physically punishing a child.
  • Older people are more likely to call 911 or report an incidence of a stranger excessively spanking or physically punishing a child. Forty-five percent of those 60 or older say they would be very likely to do so, compared with only 21% of those 18 to 29.
  • Women are more likely than men to report they would contact law enforcement if they witness an incidence of physical child abuse by a stranger (40% vs 31%), as are blacks (43%) over whites (34%).

In these uncertain times, The NYSPCC recommends that families institute a “No Hit Zone” in their homes. This means that no adult or child hits another adult or child, no matter the circumstances. For resources on alternative discipline methods, please see here. And for some family stress relief tactics, please see here. The American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children has a COVID-19 Resource List for Parents, Caregivers and Professionals, which can be accessed here.

Survey Methodology
The results reported here are based on completed interviews with a national probability sample of 1,004 Americans, 18 years of age and older. The research was designed for The NYSPCC by Michaels Opinion Research, Inc. and utilized the AmeriSpeak panel. Funded and operated by NORC at the University of Chicago, AmeriSpeak is a probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US household population. The panel provides sample coverage of approximately 97% of the US household population. Data have been weighted to national US Census benchmarks and are balanced by gender, age, education, race/ethnicity, and region. The survey was fielded on March 27-29, 2020 and has a margin or error of +/-4.3 percentage-points.

About The NYSPCC
The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NYSPCC) is one of the most highly respected child protective agencies in the world. Founded in 1875, The NYSPCC helps the most vulnerable children of our community recover from trauma. And, more importantly, it helps prevent child abuse through its work with parents, teachers, children and foster care agencies. The NYSPCC’s amazing work is used as a model for child welfare agencies across the nation. The NYSPCC has investigated more than 650,000 cases on behalf of over two million children and has educated over 53,000 professionals working with children on child abuse and neglect issues. Read more about The NYSPCC at

Media Contact:
Megan Kernan on behalf of The NYSPCC

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© GlobeNewswire 2020
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