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Try out PMC Labs and tell us what you think. Learn More. Spanking remains a common, if controversial, childrearing practice in the United States. In this article, I pair mounting research indicating that spanking is both ineffective and harmful with professional and human rights opinions disavowing the practice.
I conclude that spanking is a form of violence against children that should no longer be a part of American childrearing.
In this article, I summarize why we should be concerned about the continued use of spanking as a form of discipline. Spanking, which in this article means hitting on the bottom with an open hand, is a common parenting practice around the world.
As befits a widespread childrearing practice, a large body of research has examined the links between spanking and subsequent child behavior. This literature has been reviewed extensively elsewhere Gershoff, ; Gershoff, so what follows summarizes what is known about spanking and child development. Spanking is a form of punishment and as such can only directly achieve the first goal. Specifically, punishment is the process by which a behavior e. How well does spanking decrease undesirable behaviors? The most germane test of the effectiveness of a punishment is whether it gets the child to stop engaging in a misbehavior immediately.
Recent evidence is difficult to obtain for several reasons. First, spanking is challenging to observe in the home because it occurs relatively rarely in most families and because families may not spank in front of observers. Second, it is difficult to study in the lab spanking reviews university Institutional Review Boards prohibit the gratuitous hurting of participants.
The team ased young children with behavior problems who had been referred to the clinic to one of several conditions: Some children who disobeyed an instruction were put in time out alone and others were put in time out but spanked if they did not stay in the time out for the allotted time. The children were spanking reviews observed to see whether they complied with a series of 30 commands from their mothers.
In an initial meta-analysis of these studies, children were more likely to comply when mothers used time outs than when they spanked Gershoff, But the findings were based on a comparison of postintervention rates of compliance, which is typical for random asment experiments, and failed to consider the fact that the comparison groups in two of the five studies had substantially different rates of initial compliance at baseline.
Parents discipline to achieve not just short-term compliance but long-term changes in behavior.
Several studies have examined whether spanking is effective in achieving long-term compliance or promoting the development of conscience, variously operationalized as obedience to commands, resistance to temptation, and evidence of conscience or guilt. The answer is, clearly and definitively, no. In all 27 of the relevant studies, spanking was associated with more, not less, aggression in children Gershoff, Critics of the spanking literature maintain that this association is an artifact of effect, such that aggressive children elicit harsher parenting generally and more spanking in particular from their parents Baumrind et al.
A second study across the preschool years with more than 2, children found that spanking at ages 1, 2, and 3 predicted increases in externalizing behaviors one year later, but found no evidence of effect Berlin, Ispa, Fine, Malone, Brooks-Gunn, Brady-Smith et al. It is difficult to imagine that a parent would be able to meet all of these criteria when administering spanking; indeed, it would likely be both inadvisable and bordering on abusive if parents spanked children following every instance of a given misbehavior.
Spanking alone does not teach children why their behavior was wrong or what they should do instead Hoffman, Rather, it teaches them that they must behave when the threat of physical punishment exists, but once the threat is gone, they have no reason to behave appropriately Hoffman, Moreover, spanking is ineffective because it is different from other forms of punishment and discipline in that it involves hitting, which is of course a form of violence see further discussion of this issue later.
Hitting, by its nature, causes physical pain, and it can be confusing and frightening for children to be hit by someone they love and respect, and on whom they are dependent. This latter message then perpetuates the transmission of violence in spanking reviews across generations. In a series of meta-analyses, spanking was associated with increases in mental health problems in childhood and adulthood, delinquent behavior in childhood and criminal behavior in adulthood, negative parent-child relationships, and increased risk that children will spanking reviews physically abused Gershoff, The link between spanking and physical abuse is the most disturbing of these unintended effects, but it should not be a surprising one; both parental acts involve hitting, and purposefully hurting, children.
Studies of this cultural normativeness hypothesis have primarily used race or ethnicity as a marker of culture. In several early studies, spanking or harsh physical punishment indeed was associated with more aggression among White children but not among Black children e.
In one of only a few studies that measured normativeness, more spanking was consistently associated with more aggression in children, even when mothers or children perceived that their communities largely accepted spanking Gershoff et al. The abundance and consistency of studies linking spanking with undesirable outcomes in children has failed to spur societal change in attitudes about or use of spanking. Change may need to come from outside the academic world, and a growing of organizations representing professionals who work with children and human rights advocates have voiced concerns about and disapproval of spanking.
Based in large part on the consistency of the research linking spanking with undesirable outcomes but also on changes in attitudes about the appropriateness of hitting children in the name of discipline, several national professional organizations have called on parents to abandon spanking as rearing practice and for professionals to recommend disciplinary alternatives to spanking.
Religious leaders have begun to speak out against spanking, as well. Two major denominations in the United States, the United Methodist Church and the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church, USApassed resolutions encouraging parents to avoid spanking and use other forms of discipline. Other international human rights bodies have called for corporal punishment to be outlawed in their member countries.
Largely in response to these human rights concerns, 33 countries have banned all corporal punishment of children, including that by parents Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children [Global Initiative], Human rights-based arguments have little influence in the United States until we ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child; the United States is one of only three countries not to have done so the others are Somalia and South Sudan, the latter of which gained independence in Yet it is clear that American society is increasingly isolated in our insistence that parents and, in 19 states, public school personnel can spank children as a form of discipline.
We now have enough research to conclude that spanking is ineffective at best and harmful to children at worst. We also know that a range of professional and human rights organizations condemn the practice and urge parents to use spanking reviews forms of discipline. We thus have research-based and human rights-based reasons for not spanking our children.
But there is a third reason not to spank our children, spanking reviews that is a moral one. Although most Americans do not like to call it so, spanking is hitting and hitting is spanking reviews. By using the euphemistic term spankingparents feel justified in hitting their children while not acknowledging that they are, in fact, hitting. We as a society have agreed that hitting is not an effective or acceptable way for adults to resolve their differences, so it should not be a surprise that hitting children, like hitting adults, causes more problems than it solves.
It is time to stop hitting our children in the name of discipline. National Center for Biotechnology InformationU. Child Dev Perspect. Author manuscript; available in PMC Sep 1. Elizabeth T. Author information Copyright and information Disclaimer. Author contact information: Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Ph. Dean Keeton St. Copyright notice.
See other articles in PMC that cite the published article. Abstract Spanking remains a common, if controversial, childrearing practice in the United States. What We Know About Spanking and Child Development As befits a widespread childrearing practice, a large body of research has examined the links between spanking and subsequent child behavior. Short-term noncompliance The most germane test of the effectiveness of a punishment is whether it gets the child to stop engaging in a misbehavior spanking reviews.
Long-term noncompliance Parents discipline to achieve not just short-term compliance but long-term changes in behavior. Why is spanking spanking reviews Criticisms of Spanking From Outside the Academy The abundance and consistency of studies linking spanking with undesirable outcomes in children has failed to spur societal change in attitudes about or use of spanking. Spanking Is Increasingly Disavowed by Professional Organizations Based in large part on the consistency of the research linking spanking with undesirable outcomes but also on changes in attitudes about the appropriateness of hitting children in the name of discipline, several national professional organizations have called on parents to abandon spanking as rearing practice and for professionals to recommend disciplinary alternatives to spanking.
Conclusion We now have enough research to conclude that spanking is ineffective at best and harmful to children at worst. Policy Statement on Corporal Punishment. Jul 30, Child Protection Position Statements. Ordinary physical punishment: Is it harmful? Comment on Gershoff Psychological Bulletin. Use of harsh physical discipline and developmental outcomes in adolescence. Development and Psychopathology. Correlates and consequences of spanking and verbal punishment for low-income White, African American, and Mexican American toddlers. Child Development.
General comment No. Externalizing behavior problems and discipline revisited: Nonlinear effects and variation by culture, context, and gender. Psychological Inquiry. Developmental Psychology. The New Dare to Discipline. Tyndale House; Wheaton, IL: Social competence in children.
Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development. Punitive violence against children in Canada. Retrieved from www. Learning of aggression in children. General Assembly adopts wide range of social justice issues. Jul 6, Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin. More harm than good: A summary of scientific research on the intended and unintended effects of corporal punishment on children.Spanking reviews
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