Did you know that by law, parents cannot spank children in 53 countries?
Perhaps the most complete dissolution of child punishment comes from the United Nations (UN). The global organization, consisting of 193 countries, determined via the “UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” treaty that corporal punishment (read: spanking, hitting, or otherwise) violates human rights.
To date, 53 UN member states have prohibited most forms of corporal violence against children. 56 member states have pledged a commitment to full prohibition.
Those who faced the hand, stick, or belt may scoff at the notion that “all spanking is bad.”
But scientists and mental health experts may just have a point. Mainly that spanking isn’t in the long-term interest of our youngsters.
In this article, we’ll delve into the latest scientific and psychological findings about the corporal punishment of children.
The only suggested prerequisite: approach this all-important subject with an open mind. (There is some common ground, after all!)
“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.” ~ The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children
Why You Should Never Spank Your Children, According to Science…
“Detrimental child outcomes.”
In an article published in the Journal of Family Psychology, researchers set out to address two persistent issues; perhaps the most important being whether the psychological impacts of spanking is comparable with those of physical abuse.
To make this determination, scientists evaluated over 100 studies representing over 160,000 children. Of the 17 standard psychological outcomes of physical abuse, spanking was observed in 13.
Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, states:
“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.”
In other words, not only did spanking not affect obedience, the punishment contributed to “increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.”
“You can not punish out these behaviors…”
Alan Kazdin, Ph.D., and Sterling Professor of Psychology and Child Psychiatry at Yale University states: “You cannot punish out the behaviors that you do not want,” therefore, “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research.”
Kazdin concludes his findings in a bluntly-straightforward manner:
“We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying that (spanking) is a horrible thing that does not work.”
Physical punishment, including spanking, may work in the short term. This effect is rather simple to explain. That’s because children fear a parent hitting them. The result just doesn’t last.
The reason that spanking doesn’t work long-term, according to Kazdin, is that children don’t possess a developed punishment/reward mechanism (the byproduct of a maturing brain.) Hence, the child is unable to alter behaviors following physical punishment.
Are spankers unknowingly feeding a violent streak?
A 2011 study published in Child Abuse and Neglect concludes that spanking may result in an “intergenerational cycle of violence in homes” where physical punishment occurred. In other words, parents may unknowingly create a perpetual cycle of physical violence.
Researchers involved in the study interviewed parents and children aged 3 to 7 from over 100 families. Analysis of the research concludes that physically punishing children are more likely to embrace physical violence to resolve conflicts with peers.