The spanking wars: anti group rolls out a meta-analysis

The latest shot in the spanking wars has been fired by the US anti-spanking group End Physical Punishment of Children, through a review of existing research on the subject. The national lobby group suggested the idea of the meta-analysis to Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Michigan (but did not fund the study) and she found that corporal punishment is not a good way to improve a child’s behaviour.

Some 85 per cent of the studies -- and they go back, amazingly, more than 100 years -- showed that when children were spanked there was “less moral internalisation of norms for appropriate behaviour and long-term compliance”. Her findings come with the stamp of approval of the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The professional consensus seems to be that any form of “hitting” teaches kids that “violence is OK” and leads them to be aggressive later on. Dr Gershoff told the Arizona Republic “there is no research that says spanking is good for kids”.

However, the Family Research Council points out:

Ironically, though, the research did not focus on spanking at all, but on "physical punishment." The study explicitly lumps together words like "spank," "slap," "beat," "punch," and "whip," treating them as if they are all the same thing. There is a huge difference between the ordinary disciplinary spanking practiced by most parents and all these other forms of "physical punishment," which can more easily be abusive. Defining the issue this way makes the study useless for identifying the actual impact of "spanking" as such. The key both to the effectiveness of parental discipline (including spanking) and its effect on the child (whether positive or negative) lies in how the discipline is undertaken in its larger context, not simply what disciplinary tool is used. Studies have actually shown that a disciplinary style that balances firm control (including spanking) with positive encouragement results in the best outcomes for children.

Dr Gershoff, a mother of two, affirms the importance of discipline and suggests parents raise their voice or immediately take something away from the child to get their attention. Hmmm. But what if a toddler throws a tantrum precisely because you took something away from them, and what if they can make more noise than you? Isn’t that the time for a short, sharp smack to snap them out of it? That’s what 70 per cent of US adults still think, despite the campaign against such correction. ~ Arizona Republic, Mar 19



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