Monday, November 10, 2014

Parents spanking children: research, prevalence, possible effects

In 2012, more than 70 percent of Americans agreed that "it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking," according to a study sponsored by the National Science Foundation under the direction of Tom W. Smith, Richard V. Reeves and Emily Cuddy write for Brookings. Corporal punishment is still permitted in 19 states. Usually the goal is to correct bad behavior through physical punishment, which is generally quite effective short term. But what are the long term effects?

Some research studies show that children spanked often are more likely to develop mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and alcohol and drug abuse. Physical punishment may teach a child to associate violence with power over others. Important to note is that these studies deal with how regular and/or severe physical punishment correlates with child behavior.

Other studies indicate that corporal punishment is linked to decreased cognitive ability in early childhood. For example, a 2009 study within the National Longitudinal Study of Youth showed that children who received little or no corporal punishment gained cognitive ability more quickly than the children who were spanked. However, the reason for this may be that "parents who spank their children may be weaker parents overall, and spanking is simply one way in which this difference in parenting quality manifests itself," Reeves and Cuddy write.

According to a study using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Children of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, a significant gap in parenting quality does not exist between those who do and don't hit their children. However, most studies show that spanking "becomes problematic with increased frequency and/or intensity," Reeves and Cuddy report. A significant difference exists between spanking a child once per month and spanking multiple times per day and between spanking lightly with an open hand and spanking aggressively with a belt.

Overall, the writers suggest that U.S. policy-makers focus on encouraging positive parenting behavior such as reading to children rather than focusing on spanking prevention. Many child development experts believe that "alternatives to spanking can be just as effective in terms of regulating behavior," Reeves and Cuddy write. (Read more)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There may be something to the idea that the author expresses. However, the research I have seen doesn't prove it. There is a huge variation between parents and a great variation in the intensity and frequency of spanking. A parent hitting their child with a belt once a week is obviously causing problems. Lumping a parent who hits a child once a year on the butt with his hand into the same category is wrong and probably renders the study useless.

I think parents should use spanking only as a last resort. Grounding, timeouts, scolding, and chores should all be tried first. I do think though that there are situations where a parent is justified in spanking a child. If a child endangers themselves or engages in behavior that may get him/her in trouble with the law than its time for serious consequences.

Spanking is like spice. A little goes a long way if it is used properly.