It’s a parent’s job to do everything in their knowledge to raise their children in the best way. And while one can never say that parents don’t know how to parent, there are always the available margins for adjustment and change which should be present in every habit and approach.
When it comes to spanking, a disciplinary measure that has been used since forever, more and more emerging evidence points to the fact that it may not be one of the best parenting practices available.
While most who are reading this will definitely say that spanking has not ‘ruined’ their lives in any way (and I can agree on that notion myself), the scientific community will not agree that the outcome will always be like this for some children.
In fact, this form of corporal punishment is one that has heated debate and has stirred mixed reactions, especially when considering the warnings set out by more than a hundred studies.
So, why is this practice condemned? Here are some reasons.
IT’S SIMPLY NOT EFFECTIVE
Alan Kazdin, Ph.D. and Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University, explains that the yet undeveloped brain of the child doesn’t possess the punishment/reward mechanisms that the mature brain operates with.
With this in mind, the idea that spanking will condition them out of a certain behavior is an incomplete one. While physical punishment does have a short-term effect, as it is normal that children are scared of being hit, the result doesn’t last in the long run.
“You cannot punish out the behaviors that you do not want,” therefore, “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research,” explains Kazdin. “We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying that (spanking) is a horrible thing that does not work.”
While most are adamant that spanking does not produce negative psychological outcomes in the long run, psychologists will tell otherwise: A study which has looked at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children has pointed that the psychological impacts of spanking are the same as those of physical abuse.
By looking into over 100 studies, the research team notes that of the 17 standard psychological outcomes of physical abuse, spanking was observed in 13.
“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children,” states Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.
This means that not only does spanking not affect obedience, it contributes to “increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.”
PERPETUATING A CYCLE OF VIOLENCE
A study published in Child Abuse and Neglect points to the fact that spanking may result in an “intergenerational cycle of violence in homes” where physical punishment is practiced. In other words, parents who spank their children may be unknowingly creating a cycle of physical violence.
After interviewing over 100 families with children aged 3-7, the researchers concluded that children who are subjected to physical punishment are more likely to exhibit physical violence as a means of resolving conflicts with peers.
“A child doesn’t get spanked and then run out and rob a store,” says Dr. Gershoff, however, “There are indirect changes in how the child thinks (and feels) about things.”
On the basis of research and considering the inalienable human rights guaranteed to all citizens, 53 member states of the United Nations (UN) have already prohibited most forms of corporal violence against children, and 56 member states have fully prohibited this action. (You can see an interactive map here.)
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child treaty defines corporal punishment (that is, spanking, hitting, or otherwise) as a violation of human rights.
As The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children states, “Corporal punishment of children is a violation of their rights to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity. Its widespread legality breaches their right to equal protection under the law.”
So, while anecdotal evidence and personal opinion will voice that spanking is necessary and harmless, people should consider that research-based evidence states the opposite.
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