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Early Years Column

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Children in Southern states are more likely to feel the harsh hand of discipline than youngsters in the North, according to recent research from the University of Virginia.

Seventy percent of 720 families who were asked about their children's misbehavior in different disciplinary scenarios reported using physical punishment at least once. But Southern parents were more likely to resort to paddling than Northerners, who tended to distract, bribe, plead with, or ignore their children's transgressions.

The study, supported by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, also found that black parents use physical punishment more than white parents do, and that parents with lower education levels tend to be harsher disciplinarians than their better-educated peers.

The most surprising finding, said Sandra Scarr, a psychology professor at the university who directed the study, "is that parents told us they used the same amount of physical punishment on 1-year-old infants as on 5-year-old children."

Ms. Scarr said the study, which is being reviewed for publication by the journal Psychological Science, is the most comprehensive research on parental discipline since the 1950's.

Copies of the study are available for $2 each from the Department of Psychology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va. 22903.

The Early Childhood Facilities Fund has released its standards for Head Start and other child-care facilities. The Pennington, N.J.-based organization unveiled the voluntary guidelines last month. It also announced the winner of a national architectural-design competition reflecting the new standards.

The fund was formed in the wake of a 1992 survey of New Jersey Head Start directors, which found that inadequate facilities were the "number-one bottleneck to expansion."

The standards say that, among other components, well-designed facilities should have from four to six classrooms, spaces for family-support services, a health-services area, and staff-support areas. The guidelines provide, for example, details about appropriate square footage, bathroom equipment, and lighting.

Additional information, a catalogue of the winning and runner-up designs, and guides to creating and building high-quality facilities are available from the Early Childhood Facilities Fund of New Jersey, 65 South Main St., Building D, Pennington, N.J. 08534; (609) 703-1070.

--Laura Miller

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