Wednesday, February 9, 2011

9 Reasons Not To Spank Your Kids





I just read a post by Renee at Womanist Musings, written in response to an article called, "8 Reasons to Spank Your Kids." I agree with Renee's take entirely. Corporal punishment is something I have strong opinions about, and intend to write a full post on at some point. For now I'll just say that corporal punishment is not about what's best for the child, but about breaking their will, as one breaks-in a horse. And I'll quote from an article by Anne McGillivray, in which she summarizes the results of Elizabeth T. Gershoff's meta-analysis of over eighty studies on the effects of corporal punishment:

  1. 12 of 12 studies of the association between corporal punishment and mental health found that it was associated with poorer mental health in children.
  2. 13 of 13 studies examining parent-child relationships found that corporal punishment was associated with poorer quality in relationships between the child and the parent, including fear and resentment of the parent, aggression against the parent, and erosion of trust and closeness between child and parent.
  3. 27 of 27 studies on the relationship between corporal punishment and the level of aggression in children found corporal punishment to be associated with increased aggression -- bullying, fighting, and 'acting out' against siblings, peers, and parents.
  4. 12 of 13 studies on the relationship between physical punishment and antisocial behaviour found that physical punishment is associated with increased delinquency and other anti-social behaviour.
  5. 13 of 15 studies documented a relationship between physical punishment and lower levels of moral internalization -- children who receive physical punishment are less likely to internalize moral reasoning and values, and are more likely to demonstrate lower levels of empathy and pro-social reasoning (i.e. thinking about others and about consequences for other people).
  6. 4 of 4 studies on adult aggression confirmed the relationship between corporal punishment and heightened aggression in adulthood.
  7. 5 of 5 studies on adults who abuse a spouse or a child confirmed the relationship between receiving corporal punishment as a child, and violence against a spouse or child (domestic violence) as adults.
  8. 5 of 5 studies on adult criminal and anti-social behaviour confirmed the relationship between corporal punishment in childhood and criminal activities in adulthood.
  9. 8 of 8 studies on adult mental health problems confirmed the relationship between corporal punishment in childhood and depression, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, and other mental health problems in adulthood.
Before anyone comments on it, I'd like to point out that these studies found relationships between corporal punishment and various outcomes, not one-to-one causation. So no, I'm not arguing that if you were spanked as a child you must be a criminal now. But there is a relationship between the two.


I think finding number five is the most interesting and thought-provoking. Instead of learning to empathize with others and make moral judgements, children who experience corporal punishment are taught to act based on fear of punishment. Of course, depending on the individual, one may or may not internalize this lesson. It makes me think of the religious conservative types, who have more patriarchal families and long for the good-old-days (when beating children was more socially acceptable). The ones who fear hell, and tell everyone else that they're going to hell, and can't seem to empathize with LGBTQ people, or women, or immigrants. It also reminds me of my friend's son, who is not spanked, and is a sweet, helpful boy. When he was three he warned his parents not to squash a bug, because, "it wants to live!" I just about died when I heard that story - how many three year-olds empathize with bugs? 


Ultimately, corporal punishment is about asserting power and control through pain and fear, and that can't be a good environment for a child to grow up in.


Citation:
Anne McGillivray, “Child Physical Assault: Law, Equality and Intervention,” (2004) 30 Man. L.J. 133, summarizing Elizabeth T. Gershoff, “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associate Child Behaviors and Experiendes: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review” (2002) 128 Psychological Bulletin 539-579.


Image source

17 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this. I went through just under two years of my parents using corporal punishment, and almost five years later I'm still struggling to deal with negative after-effects like automatic resentment of authority, and my first reaction to being startled or made angry is to strike at whoever caused it.

    Thank you for spreading the word on the type of harm it can cause.

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  2. Ah, nothing like fighting misinformation with the facts. :)

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  3. Thanks so much for this. Every time I write about corporal punishment I am beset by those who desire to justify this violence because it is being aimed a children. It truly breaks my heart because I believe that kids deserve better than to be hit for any reason.

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  4. @Renee

    Thanks for stopping by!

    When I get in a discussion about corporal punishment now, I tend to just whip out this list. People will, sadly, argue with the assertion that children are equal human beings deserving of respect; but when they're faced with the results of 80+ psychological studies, they don't really know how to respond.

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  5. This article is awesome.

    Also? The kids in that picture are /adorable/!

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  6. This is a great post! I always had a very negative, visceral reaction to the idea of spanking children, and now I see that there's research behind that too.

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  7. I've always been baffled by the cognitive dissonance between the fact that an adult hitting a child is perfectly legal, but if an adult hit another adult in the same way it would be a criminal offence. Why are vulnerable young children not given the same protection against assault that adults are afforded?

    Heck, it's even illegal in most places to hit an animal the way a child is allowed to be legally assaulted by their parents.

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  8. @ Yanada

    There was a Charter case about it in Canada, and the justification was really weak. It was reached by ignoring a lot of evidence and assuming that there's a level of corporal punishment that can be educative.

    The strongest argument I've read for allowing corporal punishment against children is that since parents have the primary responsibility and burden of raising a child, they should be allowed some leeway in their parenting methods.

    There's a fear that if there's no exception made for corporal punishment against children, then there will be government interference into family life, and that families will be broken up at the drop of a hat. The focus is more on preserving the sanctity of the private sphere - and hence preserving the patriarchal family structure - than on protecting vulnerable parties.

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  9. This article is wonderful! Thanks for going through all the research. I've bookmarked it and will use it in future arguments

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  10. Thank you so much for this. I read that other article and it horrified me. It seemed to be all about "This is how to keep your kid in line" and didn't acknowledge the long-term effects of teaching kids these values. Sure, maybe your child won't disobey you because they know you'll hurt them if they do, but what's stopping them from disobeying a teacher, or someone else they know won't hurt them? You're not teaching them anything about why they should do what you're telling them, just "do it because I told you to."

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  11. There is PERFECT. My criminal law class is discussing the law that protects parents who corporally punish their children next week and I wanted to have something to throw back at all my classmates who think that hurting children is a necessary part of their upbringing. Thank you!

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  12. Are you going to cover Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada in class? I'd highly recommend reading Deschamps' dissent in that case (starts at paragraph 212).

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  13. We read only McLachlin's majority, unfortunately. I will have to pull up Deschamps' dissent though, as there was one quote from him in my book about this case that was fantastic! Thanks for the info!

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  14. You're welcome! (Deschamps is a woman, btw):)

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  15. Okay, this is why I am not allowed to post things on the internet in the morning. I was reading from a text which referred to her as a woman and I still managed to mis-gender her. So here is my official apology to Deschamps for my mistake!

    ReplyDelete

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