Monday, February 16, 2009

Articles on Corporal Punishment

I have been doing a lot of research and information gathering on spanking and the long-term outcomes. I came across, thanks to Annie, this article by Alan E. Kazdin. Dr. Kazdin is a professor at Yale University and was President of the American Psychological Association (2008). There are a lot of interesting points in the article, but the statements that stick out the most to me are related to how parents address science. (Emphasis mine)
Part of the problem is that most of us pay, at best, selective attention to science—and scientists, for their part, have not done a good job of publicizing what they know about corporal punishment. Studies of parents have demonstrated that if they are predisposed not to see a problem in the way they rear their children, then they tend to dismiss any scientific finding suggesting that this presumed nonproblem is, in fact, a problem. In other words, if parents believe that hitting is an effective way to control children's behavior, and especially if that conviction is backed up by a strong moral, religious, or other cultural rationale for corporal punishment, they will confidently throw out any scientific findings that don't comport with their sense of their own experience.
Annie also had this article in Mothering Magazine posted. The article cites research, not just personal experience. Most disturbing to me was (emphasis mine):
According to 57 percent of the 3,000 adults surveyed, children as young as six months old could be spoiled, a fact that has been disputed by many child experts and psychologists.
Another reason for continued spanking is that many adults believe that nonabusive spanking by loving parents is not harmful. While some studies have shown this form of spanking to be less harmful, the act hasn't been proven harmless.
Both articles raised issues in my mind, things that I have worked hard to counter-act in my own home. I try to read reasearch, even when I do not necessarily agree, in order to educate myself and make informed decisions in our home. The other, more notable issue, is that parents continue to set unrealistic expectations for their children. It is as though some want to train their children to fit in neat little boxes when in fact children are unique and need to be taught, not trained, at an appropriate developmental level. The more we ask judgemental questions, the more we encourage these unrealistic expectations. Simple questions that people take for granted in parenting-- Is your baby sleeping through the night yet? is one of the most common.
There are plenty of resources available online and in books that describe average behavior fnd development or various age groups. While these are great for average, each household must look at their own child to see where the child fits on the spectrum. My son is above average in some skills, but others he lags behind. This is normal in my mind (backed by research), so I do not have a problem with it.
The National Network for Child Care (NNCC) page on Toddler Development lists some activities to try (emphasis mine).
1. Take some time to watch toddlers playing. Notice the differences in their physical development: height, weight, how they relate to you and to other children, and their energy levels. Some children seem to never sit still, while others seem happy to sit down with a book.

2. Toddlers learn by exploring and experimenting.
Because I know this is how toddlers learn, I try not to interrupt The Boy from learning unless I need to secure his safety. His maniuplation of objects, desire to "check stuff out," and pesky but expected need to dump things from cup to cup are all a part of his learning style.
Before I end this, let me share a statement from the University of Nevada's Little Lives: A Parent's Guide to Development 25-26 Months --
No matter how good you are as a parent, your child will misbehave.
I know I need to be reminded of this at times. I often times absorb the lows as my own failure, when in fact, The Boy is acting his age, and today's percieved failures will become tomorrow's success.
Additional resources to check out, including a couple of my posts.
Special thanks to Annie at PhD in Parenting for sharing the articles that inspired me to finally get my thoughts in to a slightly more organized post.


Erin said...

I had read the article from Dr. Kazdin a few months ago and was disappointed. He kept referring to "the science", but yet never made any references to any studies or data at all.

Maria said...

I thought the same-- well that he uses science, but doesn't cite it, but I did find it interesting that parents ignore science that they disagree with, and the statement put me on alert to how and what I read in relation to scientific articles. Considering his article was not in a scientific, peer reviewed journal, I did take in to account his experience in using his article at all, and I thought that it would have been inappropriate for his audience to include it. However, I also know from clicking through to his biography that he knows what he is talking about.

I only made it half way through this article, so I didn't include it, but I hope to finish it today. It's from the the journal Psychology, Public Policy, and The Law. Bitensky on Corporal Punishment (2007).pdf

Erin said...

Oooh, that is a long one:) It may take me a day or so to get throughit, but I will check it out.

Jennifer and Anthony said...

I love all of the posts on parenting! It gives Anthony and I something to think and talk about in regards with our choices for X. I hope you and the Boy are doing well!

Jennifer and Anthony said...

I love all of the posts on parenting! It gives Anthony and I something to think and talk about in regards with our choices for X. I hope you and the Boy are doing well!

Erin said...

Ok, some more to add to our reading:) Here is he critque written of Gershoff's study

In particular, this blurb was what I saw in my initial search (haven't read the whole thing yet):

A second problem is that 65% of the studies in Dr. Gershoff's review measured overly severe corporal punishment, such as slapping in the face (7 studies), beatings (3 studies), or hitting with a fist and causing bruises or cuts (1 study). Most of her summary information is thus dominated by overly severe corporal punishment, clouding the issue further about nonabusive spanking. The few studies that explicitly ruled out abusive or violent parenting reported beneficial child outcomes as often as not.

As I have metnioned before, this is my biggest struggle with these studies. I would love to see a study done on the effects of parents who spank (not across the face, on the bottom, after a time of both parties being at rest and talkign through the area of sin) as ONE component in a home filled with grace, centered-gospel, affectionate love and genuine care of others in the home.

Obviously there are so many who do it wrong out there, but that is why I hesitate to listen to "the science", not simply because I don't want to believe we aren't supposed to spank, but because I don't want to be a reactivist who throws the baby out with the bathwater.

Still lots of reading to do:)

Maria said...

As much as I would love to see such a study, it would be impossible to conduct fully because the control group would be nearly impossible to find (i.e. who is going to volunteer their child to be physically abused?). I wish Blaker's article had stated which study she drew "While some studies have shown this form of spanking to be less harmful, the act hasn't been proven harmless." from. It'd make the search easier, but I can only guess that she was talking about the Straus study (summarized by CNN "Parental warmth and support do tend to lessen the effects of spanking but do not cancel them, Straus said."

Gershoff (2002) has some issues, but the authors (including Gershoff) of the 2007 piece used additional data and more recent articles/findings as well AND write clearly, IMO, the shortfalls of the 02 paper (beginning on page 3 of the 2007 paper). The 2007 piece goes beyond the research to discuss policy and law. Some countries are finding that corporal punishment is a violation of human rights, and it is a violation of two treaties the US has been a part of.

It is also my understanding that the 2002 Gershoff indicated that there were some problems with the original studies, which would create some issues with the meta analysis. If those were the best available data though, should we not use them to some extent? Obviously there is new information or the 2007 paper wouldn't have been authored.

Quite honestly, what it boils down to for me is not the science of what spanking does. I know that from my own experiences and would be a high risk spanker, so I don't do it at all. Period. However, I also know if my husband hit me, we wouldn't be married, and there is a decent likelihood he'd be in jail. In sororities and fraternities it is hazing. Only for children is it considered acceptable and legal in US homes.
Why would I hit the most vulnerable member of my family?

Truth be told, I am not on a mission to change your mind. I have a curious mind and enjoy research. I already know the benefits of the methods I do use, because I read about them first. I know they are at a minimum as effective at raising a healthy, happy, well-balanced, emotionally stable, loving, empathetic child... it's not free-reign of the two year old in our house, but there is not violence--verbal or physical-- either.

Reading the cnn article, but how is my son wired so differently that telling him a pan is hot means he pulls his hand back. I do not have to slap his hand. He doesn't try to crawl up on the stove. My only answer to my own question-- attachment parenting.

Of course, now that I said that, he is going to be exceptionally challenging tomorrow. LOL!

Hippie Housewife said...

It's nice to see all that information in one place! Great post.

Julie Worley said...

Our family is committed to raising awareness and bringing about positive change for transparency, accountability and responsibility of Government Officials regarding the urgent need for Nationwide Uniform Standards that ensure Equal Access/Civil Rights of ALL Children in U.S. Schools. ALL children must have access to safe, healthy and supportive learning environments. The state legislatures of 29 states have abolished corporal punishment in schools. Ohio Governor Ted Strickland has proposed a school paddling ban tied to education funding, if approved, Ohio will be the 30th state to ban school paddling.

I am the mother of 3 school-aged children and our family resides in a paddling school district in Middle Tennessee. Two of our children attend middle school where paddling is administered routinely for minor infractions just outside of classrooms in the hallway. In our complacency, we never dreamed that Corporal (Physical) Punishment (Paddling with a wooden board) would be necessary for any of our 3 children at school, as they are intelligent, reasonable and well behaved. One year ago, I received a call from my 13 year old son's middle school assistant principal informing me that she was about to administer a paddling to him for going outside with his class when he was told to stay in. We were only called at our son's insistence, as all of our children have been taught from an early age that no one has the right to touch them, they can say no, get away and tell someone in order to protect them from sexual abuse. I informed her that we do not paddle our children and did not want them to. She insisted that he must still be "Punished" and we agreed upon an acceptable form of "Discipline" that did not involve physical punishment. We immediately wrote to Federal, State and Local Government Officals and Elected Representatives only to receive responses that tell us "By LAW, it is the responsibility of our Local School District Board of Education to adopt policies regarding the administration and operation of local schools. We have written to our local school district's Board Members of several occasions and made a verbal/written presentation at their board meeting on April 14, 2008 during "Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month" to demand they take action to prohibit corporal punishment of children in our county schools and to date, we have received NO RESPONSE.

Since the beginning of 2009 our 12 year old daughter has told of 2 paddling incidents that took place in the hallway just outside of her classroom and she told us the students names and the number of blows they received as she could overhear them. Teachers verbally threaten students with physical punishment and show them wooden paddles with holes drilled into them that they keep in their desk drawers. How is my child supposed to learn in an atmosphere filled with fear? Our family does not physically punish or hit our children and we do not feel that paddling is effective, it doesn't make the child turn in missing work, improve grades or teach them appropriate behavior. In fact, the paddled child probably feels humiliated and resentful of the teacher who paddled him. I am very concerned about paddling taking place in schools because it is not regulated in any manner and it's just plain wrong. We tell our children not to hit. Educators who hit students with weapons (wooden paddles) to deliberately inflict physical pain and suffering intended to punish them powerfully model physical assault/violence to schoolchildren as the acceptable way to solve problems. Schools and teachers who purchase weapons (wooden paddles) with tax payer funds and possess/use them are in direct conflict/violation of Zero Tolerance of Weapons in Schools Policies.

As members of Tennesseans for Nonviolent School Discipline, we worked on letters to editors of newspapers in paddling school districts in Middle Tennessee to inform citizens of the U.S. Department of Education, Office For Civil Rights paddling statistics as reported by schools in their community and what they can do to protect their children. The reported number of paddling incidents is staggering! Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) issued a report titled "A Violent Education" on 8/20/08 with recommendations to Government Officials to Immediately Abolish Corporal Punishment (Paddling) in U.S. Schools. The report cites U.S. Department of Education, Office For Civil Rights statistics where schools reported disciplining over 223,190 students by hitting, spanking or similar means for such minor infractions as chewing gum or violating school dress codes.

Tragically, current news headlines regarding investigations taking place in the Chicago Public School System include HUNDREDS of incidents of child abuse reported in schools and a 9 year old boy in Decatur Co., GA suffered deep bruising at Potter Street Elementary School when the ASSISTANT PRINCIPAL PADDLED HIM 3 TIMES IN ONE DAY!

The cost to eliminate educators right to assault and batter schoolchildren is $0.

Our family is thankful to educators who refrain from physical punishment of schoolchildren. According to an important new report on physical punishment of children in the U.S., read the full report at, the majority of American adults are opposed to physical punishment by school personnel. The report has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Emergency Physicians, the National Association of Regulatory Boards and others. There is a growing momentum among other countries to enact legal bans on all forms of physical punishment, bolstered by the fact that the practice has come to be regarded as a violation of international human rights law. There is little research evidence that physical punishment improves children's behavior in the long term. In contrast, there is substantial research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased aggression, antisocial behavior, mental health problems, and physical injury. The clear connections between physical abuse and physical punishment that have been made in empirical research and in the child abuse statutes of several states suggest that reduction in parents' use of physical punishment should be included as intergral parts of state and federal child abuse prevention efforts. For alternative discipline strategies, please visit Thank You!

dulce de leche said...

Excellent post! Thanks, too, for including all the links for Christian parents. I recently shared a blog post with our views on Christians and spanking.

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