Exploring English Character

Exploring English Character is a book by Geoffrey Gorer (English anthropologist, 1905-1985). It was published in 1955, based on a large survey he designed. The survey was carried out in 1950 and 1951, with a sample of fourteen thousand, and the results based on five thousand of this.

English parent's views on punishmentEdit

Chapter "Children II: Punishment and Reward" contains a detailed statistical analysis of English parent's views on how to punish children appropriately. Nearly all the punishments mentioned with either approval or disapproval by English parents fall into five main groups: deprivation, restraint, verbal punishments (such as lectures), manual punishments (slapping or spanking) and physical punishments with instruments. Nearly all English parents made a distinction between physical punishments inflicted with the open hand (spanking or slapping) and those inflicted either with an instrument (caning, whipping etc.) or with the fist or foot.

25% of the fathers and 14% of the mothers approved of some type of severe physical punishment for boys. For girls the figures were 1% of the fathers and 8% of the mothers.

Gorer also found that among the less educated groups the phrase 'corporal punishment' was quite consistently misunderstood to mean 'cruel or brutal punishments.' Numerous respondents wrote to the effect "a naughty boy should be given a good caning, but I don't approve of corporal punishment.' This misunderstanding was consistent; at least one parent in six misused the term.

Gorer also observed that "at least some English parents find pleasure without conscious guilt in inflicting severe pain on children as punishment. The majority disapprove of such behaviour, but the emphasis with which such disapproval is voiced suggests the possibility that there is an unconscious temptation against which such defences have to be erected. In many other societies, I very much doubt whether such heat and indignation would be engendered on the subject of severe punishment of children, or indeed whether the possibilities would be mentioned in answer to the vague and open question 'Are there any forms of punishment you don't approve of for boys or girls?'"