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Spanking looks to be instantly effective. If is misbehaving—if he keeps swearing, or playing with matches—and then you spank that child, the behavior stops immediately. The effect is so apparently obvious that it can drive a sort of delusion. Lived experience tends to be more powerful than facts. One of the few memories that many people retain from early childhood is times they were spanked.
Some 81 percent of Americans believe spanking is appropriate, even though decades of research have shown it to be both ineffective and harmful. For years, the American Academy of Pediatrics has been warning against spanking, and many countries have laws against it. In the extremely depressing journal Child Abuse and Neglectresearcher Julie Ma and colleagues found that spanking was associated with later aggressive behavior.
Ma has ly linked spanking to later antisocial behavior, anxiety, and depression. Then last week The Journal of Pediatrics reported that researchers at the University of Texas found a correlation between corporal punishment as and dating violence as an adult. That one struck a chord in light of the national conversation about sexual harassment.
Of course, no single act or momentary experience turns a person from a blank slate into a violent or coercive adult. To suggest that childhood experiences explain sexual violence ignores the structural power dynamics that condone and perpetuate it.
The words I choose to use here are loaded, I know. Many researchers tend to see corporal punishment and physical abuse as part of a continuum. Administered too severely or too frequently, corporal punishment is abuse. The notion of a continuum is corroborated by the stated intent of abusers. He was influenced by one of the pivotal works in spank-theory discourse, a meta-analysis by Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff who is now also at the University of Texas, a geographically unlikely hotbed of resistance to corporal punishment.
Our job is just to provide them the evidence of what works, and what happens long-term. This abdication of the moral high ground is principled. He is fundamentally opposed to telling people what not to do. As a father himself, he knows this is difficult to adhere to, but he believes this can happen even in the most difficult situation.
The other evidence-based approach he recommends is taking something positive away.
For younger children, that can mean taking away a toy temporarily. For older children and teenagers, this can mean taking away a cell phone. All of this is in service of teaching children to be respectful without disrupting the vital positive elements of the caretaker-child relationship.
At a larger scale, Temple believes one promising approach is school-based teaching of relationship skills. He is involved with a program call the Fourth R meaning relationshipswhich is dedicated to baking healthy adolescent relationships into the curriculum. The ultimate target is violence of multiple sorts, including bullying, dating violence, peer violence, and group violence. But the focus is positive, not punitive, on how to build healthy relationships.
Temple believes this work is relevant to the national conversation on sexual assault and harassment. The discourse is doing an extraordinary job punishing—and of telling people how not to behave. Publicly accused perpetrators of sexual violence have been removed from their positions in droves, with the notable exceptions of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore and President Donald Trump.
At the same time, though, if there is evidence that punishment-based approaches are ineffective in children—and the behavior of these men is in many ways juvenile, egocentric, inhumane—then this punitive approach is at best incomplete. It carries with it the risk of a false sense of progress.
When the public perceives that we have cleansed the halls of Congress and corporations of the several bad eggs who commit sexual harassment violent or otherwisehow much of the structural problem is really solved?
In the interim before the total eradication of men, what keeps these positions from being filled again by bad eggs? The punitive phase will, it seems, need to go hand in hand with positive reinforcement. This seems absurd in an ostensibly civilized era: No one deserves a reward for being a basically reasonable respectful human.
Or maybe they do. There is no dispute that early exposures are critical to later social habits. Relationships with adults at a very young age shape how we learn to relate. The degree to which violence and perceived respect enter into that relationship are important. That means teaching healthy relationships to everyone, but especially boys. I think that might be where the key is. Popular Latest. The Atlantic Crossword.
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