Spank and you risk your child’s future

By Jasminee Sahoye

We often hear in the Caribbean “spare the rod and spoil the child” which comes from Proverbs 13:24: “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

So it is common for parents to spank their children. Another term for spanking is corporal punishment. According to Wikipedia, corporal punishment is a form of physical punishment that involves the deliberate infliction of pain as retribution for an offence, or for the purpose of disciplining or reforming a wrongdoer, or to deter attitudes or behaviour deemed unacceptable.

According to a 2012 report on the Global initiative to end all corporal punishment of children titled Prohibiting corporal punishment of children in the Caribbean, of the nearly eight million children in the Caribbean, 100% live in states and territories where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment in the home; 32.9% live where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment in schools; 14% live where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment in penal institutions; 31.9% live where they are not legally protected in alternative care settings, and 12.2% live where they are not legally protected from corporal punishment as a sentence of the courts.

But a scientist has found that spanking slows cognitive development and increases antisocial and criminal behaviour.

A book by Murray Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Lab and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, explains the more than four decades of research to make the definitive case against spanking.

The book features longitudinal data from more than 7,000 U.S. families as well as results from a 32-nation study and presents the latest research on the extent to which spanking is used in different cultures and the subsequent effects of its use on children and on research that shows spanking corrects misbehaviour.

It also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. In addition, the research shows the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner.

“Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school,” Straus says. “More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90% agreement among them.

“There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behaviour where the results are so consistent,” he says.

As the holidays are approaching, Straus has this suggestion: “If you are looking for a gift that will increase your child’s chances for a happy and healthful life, including a good job and a violence-free marriage, the evidence in this book suggests it would be promising yourself to never spank.

“Better yet, tell your kids about that promise. It is likely to increase their respect and love for you, and they will also help you stick to it.”

In a 2013 study by Elizabeth Gershoff, a developmental psychologist, who studies how parenting generally and discipline in particular affect children’s development, she and her team reviewed the previous two decades of research. They confirmed that children who are spanked are more likely to exhibit depression, anxiety, drug use, and aggression as they get older.

Children who have suffered more severe corporal punishment have been shown to have less gray matter in their frontal cortex and to have amygdalas that are more hyper-vigilant.

The only positive outcome that’s ever been shown from spanking is immediate compliance; however, corporal punishment is associated with less long-term compliance.

Corporal punishment has repeatedly been linked with nine other negative outcomes, including increased rates of aggression, delinquency, mental health problems, and problems in relationships with their parents.