If you think that the answer to an unruly child is a good spanking, think again, say researchers from the Universities of Texas and Michigan, who after extensive analysis found that this form of punishment only makes youngsters more likely to be defiant and aggressive.
Their study, which was published in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology, was based on five decades worth of research involving more than 160,000 children. They are calling it the most extensive scientific investigations into the spanking issue, and one of the few to look specifically at spanking rather than grouping it with other forms of physical discipline.
“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” lead author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, said in a statement Monday. “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 fact, Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found that the more frequently that children are spanked, the higher the risk that those kids will start to defy their parents, become aggressive, experience mental health issues, exhibit anti-social behaviors, and/or develop cognitive difficulties.
In the mental health field this is really old news, but you would be surprised at the number of people who still feel that all any unruly or disruptive child needs is more discipline. And of course their idea of discipline always involves corporeal punishment.
Let me confess that when I was a young father I did swat my daughter on the butt one or two times at least.
My only excuse is that I was not well educated enough to know the harm I was doing and I now regret every swat I ever administered to my child.
And trust me she remembers every one of them as well, and will bring it up to remind me that I was not always the cool headed professional that people think I am today.
The problem of course is that positive behavior modification techniques are still not widely known, and even when known take time to change disruptive behaviors, while for many parents the spanking creates immediate gratification both by temporarily altering the child's behavior and also feeding into the parent's sense of power and need for control.
However if parents choose the slower path of positive behavior modification they will end up with happier children and ultimately more successful adults.