When a 12-year-old boy shouted "you suck" at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) during a rally in La Porte, Indiana, on Sunday, the presidential hopeful proposed a solution: a spanking.
"You know, in my household, when a child behaves that way, they get a spanking," Cruz said as the boy was being escorted out. The audience cheered.
It may seem a bit odd for a grown man who wants to be president of the United States to bring up spanking -- the act of hitting someone's butt with an open hand -- but Cruz has done so more than once this election cycle.
He told an audience in January that he spanks his daughter when she doesn't tell the truth, then suggested that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should be spanked for allegedly lying about the 2012 Benghazi attack.
Sixty-five percent of Americans approve of spanking and half of parents say they spank their children sometimes, according to an ABC News poll conducted last year. About 50 percent of Americans think spanking is an effective way to discipline children, according to 2014 YouGov survey. And most Americans -- 71 percent -- say they were spanked as children.
The General Social Survey, a poll conducted every other year, has been asking Americans if they "agree that it's sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking" since 1986, and large majorities of respondents have always agreed. Republicans are more likely than Democrats to approve of spanking.
But its popularity shouldn't be used as a justification to do it, some experts say.
Children who are spanked are more likely to be defiant and aggressive as well as experience mental health problems and exhibit antisocial behavior as they get older, according to study published last month in the Journal of Family Psychology that analyzed a half-century of data on the subject.
"Spanking, when done in anger, actually communicates loss of control and loss of authority, which can increase anxiety in children and reinforce the unwanted behavior," Dr. Maria Zimmitti, a Washington, D.C.-based psychologist who works with children, told The Huffington Post.
Some critics raise another concern.
Writer Jillian Keenan argues in a 2014 Slate article that spanking is an inherently sexual act that shouldn't be used to punish children.
"It’s weird that no one worries about the implications of hitting children on a body part that is culturally and biologically sexual," she writes, explaining that spanking a kid can cause some blood to flow through an artery connected to his or her genitals.
Since at least the 1950s, some Americans have believed that spanking is only appropriate for children of certain ages. Eighteen percent of Americans who responded to a 1954 Gallup poll said children older than 9 to 11 shouldn't be spanked. About one-third believed 12 to 14 was the age limit. Thirteen percent said 15 to 17 was the cut-off age range for spanking, and 4 percent said it was acceptable for them spank their kids who were older than 18.
A 1995 survey found most parents who spanked their children did so when the kids were 3 and 4. Although parents are less likely to spank their older children, more than half of parents who spank their kids still spank their 12-year-olds. One in three spank 14-year-olds, and 13 percent spank 17-year-olds.
Polling indicates that many parents might agree with Cruz's suggestion that spanking a 12-year-old is appropriate -- despite plenty of research indicating it's not. There's no data available to indicate whether Americans agree with Cruz's suggestion regarding spanking the Democratic candidate.