We’ve spent the last two days — as we have many times before on The PediaBlog — examining just how ineffective spanking as a form of discipline is. In fact, as we learned yesterday, current research now suggests that spanking makes bad behavior worse in children. We’ve also considered the growing body of evidence clearly showing just how harmful it is to the health of adults who were spanked as children. James Hamblin notes in The Atlantic that just because we were spanked by our parents and think we turned out alright doesn’t make it okay to spank our own kids:
Some 81 percent of Americans believe spanking is appropriate, even though decades of research have shown it to be both ineffective and harmful. The refrain I keep hearing is, “Well, I got spanked, and I turned out okay.”
To which a person might reply, “Did you?”
For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning against spanking, and many countries have laws against it. A 2007 UN convention has said corporal punishment violates the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from “all forms of physical or mental violence,” and should be banned in all contexts. Psychologist Alan Kazdin, the director of the Yale Parenting Center and former president of the American Psychological Association, has admonished that spanking is “a horrible thing that does not work.” It predicts later academic and health problems: Adults who were spanked as children “regularly die at a younger age of cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.”
A new study in this month’s Journal of Pediatrics demonstrates more “deleterious outcomes associated with corporal punishment” during childhood. Children who experience violence at home in the form of spanking (from people who supposedly love them) are more likely to use violence themselves later on as adults (on people they supposedly love), say Sandee LaMotte and Carina Storrs:
“We asked 758 kids between 19 and 20 years old how often they had been spanked, slapped or struck with an object as form of punishment when they were younger,” said the study’s lead author, Jeff Temple, a psychiatry professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch. “Kids who said they had experienced corporal punishment were more likely to have recently committed dating violence.”
This result, he said, held up even when contributing factors such as sex, age, parental education, ethnicity and childhood abuse were controlled.
“One of the advantages of our study was to control for child abuse, which we defined as being hit with a belt or board, left with bruises that were noticeable or going to the doctor or hospital,” said Temple, who specializes in dating, or relationship, violence. “Regardless of whether someone experienced child abuse or not, spanking alone was predictive of dating violence.”
The evidence lined up against spanking is clear; its supporters shouldn’t be allowed to pick and choose the science they accept and the science they don’t:
“There’s a tendency for adults who have been spanked to say ‘I turned out just fine,’ ” Temple said. “So they continue the behavior with their children.”
Temple and Sege argue that attitude is shortsighted and doesn’t take into account two decades of research showing no benefit from corporal punishment.
“There’s zero evidence that it enhances children’s development, and there is a whole bunch of evidence that it has negative outcomes,” Temple said. “Our goal is not to turn out fine. Our goal is to turn out healthier and happier than previous generations.”
Sege agreed: “We didn’t have seat belts for children when I was growing up, either. Research changed that. The effects of corporal punishment are quite well established to be poor.”
Spanking is ineffective, hurtful, damaging, and wrong. Don’t do it. What does work without hurting children? The PediaBlog has that covered here.