“Corporal punishment of children is a violation of their rights to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity. Its general legality violates their right to equal protection under the law. ” ~ The Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children. According to science, hitting children is not exactly the best way to discipline them.

Did you know that spanking has been banned in 53 countries? Perhaps the most complete dissolution of child punishment comes from the United Nations (UN). The global organization, which consists of 193 countries, determined through the treaty of the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” that corporal punishment (read: spanking, hitting or otherwise) is a violation of human rights .

To date, 53 UN member states have banned most forms of bodily violence against children. 56 member states have committed to a total ban.

Those of us who face the hand, the stick, and / or the belt may scoff at the idea that “every beating is bad.” But scientists and mental health experts may have a point. Mainly, that scourge is not in the long-term interest of our young people.

In this article, we will delve into the latest scientific and psychological findings related to corporal punishment of children. The only suggested prerequisite: approach this very important topic with an open mind. (There is something in common, after all!)

Why you should never hit your children according to science

Harmful child outcomes

In an article published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers set out to tackle two persistent problems; Perhaps the most important is whether the psychological impacts of spanking are comparable to those of physical abuse.

To make this determination, scientists evaluated more than 100 studies representing more than 160,000 children. Of the 17 standard psychological outcomes of physical abuse, spanking was observed in 13.

Elizabeth Gershoff, associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, states:

“We found that spanking was associated with unintended harmful outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are the expected outcomes of parents when disciplining their children.”

In other words, not only did spanking not affect obedience, punishment contributed to “increased antisocial behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties.”

You cannot punish these behaviors

Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., and Sterling Professor of Child Psychology and Psychiatry at Yale University affirm: “You cannot punish behaviors that are not desired”, therefore, “There is no need for corporal punishment based on investigation”. ”

Kazdin concludes his findings in a frankly direct way:

“We are not giving up on an effective technique. We’re saying that (pasting) is a horrible thing that doesn’t work. ”

Physical punishment, including spanking, can work in the short term. This effect is quite simple to explain: children are afraid of being hit! The result just doesn’t last.

The reason spanking does not work in the long term, according to Kazdin, is that children do not have a developed punishment / reward mechanism (the by-product of a maturing brain). Therefore, the child cannot alter behaviors after physical punishment.

Does spanking unknowingly fuel a violent streak?

A 2011 study published in Child Abuse and Neglect concludes that spanking can result in an “intergenerational cycle of violence in homes” where physical punishment occurred. In other words, parents may unknowingly be creating a perpetual cycle of physical violence.

Researchers who participated in the study interviewed parents and children ages 3 to 7 from more than 100 families. Research analysis concludes that children who are physically punished are more likely to embrace physical violence as a means of resolving conflicts with their peers.

The researchers caution against the absence of “immediate negative effects of spanking.”

“A child doesn’t get spanked and then runs off and robs a store,” says Dr. Gershoff, however, “There are indirect changes in the way the child thinks (and feels) about things.”

Popular dissent

Robert Larzelere, an Oklahoma State University professor specializing in parental discipline, disagrees with the premise that surrounds much of the aforementioned research.

“Studies do not discriminate well between non-abusive and excessively harsh types of corporal punishment. Poor results are obtained from corporal punishment than from alternative disciplinary techniques only when it is used with greater severity or as the main discipline tactic ”.

Larzelere – and many others – are supporters of “conditional spanking,” where the act is incorporated into other forms of youth discipline, including temporary restriction of privileges (eg playing time), punishment with time (time-out) and effective communication between child and parent.

Final thoughts

The “appropriate” methods of youth discipline may never fully reach a majority consensus. In fact, conservative estimates cite that two out of three parents in the United States prioritize spanking as a form of discipline.

What’s interesting is that both sides of the spanking debate agree on one thing: spanking shouldn’t be the main source of discipline .

By Dr. Eric Jackson

Dr. Eric Jackson provides primary Internal Medicine care for men and women and treats patients with bone and mineral diseases, diabetes, heart conditions, and other chronic illnesses.He is a Washington University Bone Health Program physician and is a certified Bone Densitometrist. Dr. Avery is consistently recognized in "The Best Doctors in America" list.

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