Is spanking effective? This is what the experts say

Is spanking effective? This is what the experts say

Corporal punishment – described as use of physical force to punish a child – is a divisive issue in the parenting world, with some parents squarely swearing by or against it. But what do the experts have to say about it?

According to research recently published in BMJ Open, corporal punishment may do more harm than good.

For the study, researchers looked at the lives of more than 400,000 young people in 88 countries with varying degrees of legislation banning the use of corporal punishment in schools and homes. They also compared rates of adolescent violence. Their analysis showed the following key findings:

  • Boys in the 30 countries with full bans against corporal punishment (in schools and at home) experienced 69 percent of the fighting that boys experienced in the 20 countries with no bans.
  • Girls in the 30 countries with full bans against corporal punishment (in schools and at home) experienced 42 percent of the fighting that girls experienced in the 20 countries with no bans.
  • In a comparison of rates of fighting between the 38 countries with partial bans (in schools but not at home) and the 20 countries with no bans in place, there was no difference among boys, though girls in countries with partial bans experienced 56 percent of the fighting that girls experienced in countries without a ban.

This study supports growing evidence that corporal punishment doesn’t actually improve a child’s behavior. In fact, both the American Psychology Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) have opposed the use of corporal punishment in private and public institutions where children are care for or educated. In fact, yesterday, the AAP released a policy statement recommending pediatricians advise parents against spanking their children and to avoid nonphysical punishment that is “humiliating, scary or threatening.”

“Research has shown corporal punishment is not an effective behavioral management technique,” says Dr. Melissa Hernandez, lead clinical psychologist at Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago. “Although parents may mean well when they spank their children, the problem behavior is often left unchanged. Instead, the parent-child relationship experiences an escalation of anger, frustration and aggression. Children may also learn that they are ‘bad’, which can impact their self-esteem.”

Dr. Hernandez adds other tactics can be taken to reinforce positive behaviors or discourage bad ones, including:

  • Use of clear expectations
  • Positive reinforcement, including praise, rewards and compliments
  • Non-violent discipline techniques, including time-out and temporary removal of special privileges

“Children are actively learning to identify and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Oftentimes, they may not have the tools to express their needs,” Dr. Hernandez says. “When a child is upset, parents should check in to see what they need and provide support.”

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Comments

5 Comments

  1. What do you mean *may* do more harm than good???? Spanking is ABUSIVE. Hello? Do we debate whether or not a husband beating his wife is “effective”? No, because it’s battery and it’s illegal. Why should it be any different for an adult to hit a young defenseless child??? All that spanking teaches is that bigger and more powerful people can do whatever they want to smaller and less powerful people. If you are such a pathetic loser that you can’t find any better way to interact with a child than hitting them, you don’t belong anywhere near children.

  2. Furthermore, do you see the disconnect between these two things:

    “Non-violent discipline techniques, including time-out and temporary removal of special privileges”; and

    ““Children are actively learning to identify and communicate their thoughts and feelings. Oftentimes, they may not have the tools to express their needs,” Dr. Hernandez says. “When a child is upset, parents should check in to see what they need and provide support.””?

    If a child is upset and not fully capable of expressing thoughts and feeling, why punish at all, even with kinder, gentler ways of inflicting pain and suffering? Why not talk to your child, soothe him, help her talk through her feelings and let him know that he is loved and safe and understood? I mean, think about how you would feel if someone put you in time out or took away something from you when you were upset? Would it help you?

  3. Dr. John Steichen November 6, 2018 at 1:24 pm · Reply

    I am greatly appreciative of the dicipline that I experienced occasionally at the hand of my Father. I think the study is flawed using entire countries and comparing cross culture. There is a big difference between loving dicipline and a just plain mean parent.

  4. I suffered corporal punishment once. A long time ago, in 1945, when I was a young child and we lived on a busy street. I had been told many times not to run into that street for any reason. My dad was cutting the front lawn and I was playing with a ball. It went into the street and I followed. My dad got me by the arm and hauled me back onto the yard. He emphasized the “DON’T RUN INTO THE STREET” with four or five smacks on my bottom. Driven not by his anger but, I believe, the knowledge/fear of what could have happened had there been a car there at the same time I was. It was not child abuse. And, I didn’t run into the street again.

    One of the families that lived across the alley from us has two children, a boy and girl a little older than I was. Discipline there, at least one time that I observed, was administered with a chair leg. That was child abuse.

  5. I have to agree with Dr. Steichen, I am grateful for the discipline from my parents also. I disciplined my children the same way. One of my daughters thanked me for this, I never beat my children, but I did spank them.

About the Author

Jaimie Oh
Jaimie Oh

Jaimie Oh, health enews contributor, is the manager of public affairs and marketing at Illinois Masonic in Chicago. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and has nearly a decade of experience working in publishing, strategic communications and marketing. Outside of work, Jaimie trains for marathons with the goal of running 50 races before she turns 50 years old.