Pope Francis angered child abuse activists this week when he suggested it was ok for parents to discipline a disobedient child with a smack “if dignity was maintained.”
The comments, apparently in support of corporal punishment, fly in the face of consistent research that’s found spanking has essentially no positive effect on children and may actually harm them in the long run.
Still, as it turns out, spanking isn’t all that controversial for most parents in the U.S., black or white, high school dropouts or college graduates.
More than three quarters of men and 65% of women in the United States say they support giving children the occasional “good, hard spanking,” as TIME highlighted in parenting feature The Discipline Wars.
The numbers are only marginally lower than in 1985, when 84% of men and 82% of women said they supported the practice.
Views around the world are somewhat mixed—43 countries, including Francis’ native Argentina, ban corporal punishment. Still, all of North America and most of Western Europe either explicitly allow it or have no laws on the books.
But even supporters of the occasional spanking draw the line somewhere. The father who prompted Francis to discuss the issue in the first place, for instance, said he would never try to “humiliate” his child. In his remarks, Francis said that parents should only “correct with firmness” when it is done “justly.”
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