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Monday, September 15, 2014

Is it okay to spank my child?

Yes, corporal punishment is definitely bad for kids (and it's probably bad for parents, too, but more on that later).

Over 90% of studies show that corporal punishment is
highly correlated with anti-social behaviors, especially
for white males.

There have been hundreds of scientific studies on the effects of corporal punishment. Over 90% of these studies show a strong or very strong link between corporal punishment and anti-social behaviors in children. Anti-social behaviors include everything from bullying other children, stealing, and vandalism, as well as classroom behavior problems (ADHD), poor academic performance, substance abuse, and lack of interest in employment.
Over 90% of studies show that corporal punishment is highly correlated with anti-social behaviors, especially for white males.

The correlation between corporal punishment and anti-social behavior in children is stronger for white male children than it is for minority children; however, as a whole, all children who experience even mild forms of corporal punishment display greater amounts of anti-social behaviors than children who do not.* I suspect that most children who suffer from ADHD are spanked at home. Keep in mind that 50% of American parents still use corporal punishment.

Corporal punishment doesn't have to cause cuts, welts or bruises to result in anti-social behaviors. However, more severe abuse seems to have a greater correlation to more serious anti-social behaviors. Once children begin to engage in even mild anti-social behaviors, other factors emerge that may reinforce or exacerbate the problem.

Most states have agreed that corporal punishment becomes excessive and illegal when it causes cuts, welts, or bruises.

Why is spanking bad for parents?
If you're a parent who spanks, you may feel guilty about spanking your child afterwards. If you do, you have a choice to make: either justify the spanking, "my child deserved it," or apologize and don't do it again. If you justify the spanking, you may be heading down a bad road. You'll probably find that more guilt leads to more blame. You may start labeling your child, "bad," "evil," "defiant," "willful," or one of many other dozens of negative labels parents have developed for kids over the years. Some of those names are correlated with physical abuse or excessive corporal punishment, like the label, "evil." Because corporal punishment will often lead to more negative behaviors, and it often will not permanently stop the problem behaviors from occurring again, you may find yourself hitting your child harder, yelling louder, and calling them worse names over the years. In the end, they're going to live up to your ideas of who they are. As the old saying goes, "A father whose son hits him is guilty of raising a son who hits him."
There are other issues as well. Some parents will affirm their spanking behavior more than others. In essence, they repress their guilt and become indignant towards their child. They will boldly claim in front of other parents regarding their use of corporal punishment, "if my son did that, I'd whoop his ass." Knowing that you hit your child may lead to other parents’ tacit disapproval, so you may lose friends. Other parents who spank may feel affirmation, "Mr. and Mrs. X hit their kids; see, it's what parents do." It may be what many parents "do," but it's not an effective type of punishment and it will, in most cases, cause some type of damage to the depth or bond of the parent-child relationship.
There are many effective alternatives to spanking. Anyone can be a parent, but there are experts that can provide very good parenting advice and help you develop comprehensive behavior plans that will help you manage your child's behavior while enhancing your relationship with them. In the end, kids just want to be loved by their parents and parents want to be loved by their kids. "Corporal punishment" has no place in a loving relationship any more than stalking should be considered romantic.
Some articles about NFL Adrian Peterson's abuse of his son:
Charles Barkley's comments: reflect a common attitude, "my parents spanked me...," but, tradition has next to no validity, especially when it is so clear that corporal punishment has such large negative effects on kids.
The details of what Adrian Peterson did to his child are left out of most articles that I could find. Apparently, the bruises and welts cover his lower body, even his scrotum. Given the child's young age and the extent of the bruising, it's clearly abuse (by the way, I was a program supervisor for DCFS for several years, and I investigated these cases in foster home settings).
Chris Carter's statements show that Charles Barkley doesn't speak for everyone. There are many southerners, and American in general, who do not use or believe in corporal punishment.
The negative effects of corporal punishment are as scientifically clear as the negative effects of cigarette smoking.

Mental Health Advice Disclaimer: The information included in this post and blog are for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional mental health treatment or medical advice. The reader should always consult his or her mental health provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation or if they have any questions regarding a mental health or medical condition or treatment plan. Reading the information on this website does not create a therapist-patient relationship.

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