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To Spank or Not to Spank

To Spank or Not to SpankSpanking then

Spanking is supposedly a thing of the past. Just a generation ago, spanking was a common form of discipline. I remember being spanked a couple of times although I don’t think that I was especially problematic as a child. I also remember, coming from a big family with 6 children, that my parents set “age limits” – when kids are too young or too old to be spanked but can’t remember the ages. I never resented my parents for the spankings as long as they were fair and consistent. It was then part of life, part of childhood. I also believe that the spanking didn’t do me any damage but some psychoanalysts think differently.

Spanking now

Spanking nowadays is looked upon as an unacceptable form of corporal punishment. Several research studies report that physical discipline damages the psyche of the child, leading to psychological problems. The new social norm as well as scientific evidence against spanking might be the reasons why I don’t spank my children. It’s not about “I don’t want you to suffer through what I did as a child.” I can’t also claim that my mom loved me less than I love my own kids.

Although the general opinion is that spanking is out, it is still quite widespread in some places and experts are still divided about its costs and benefits. Here are the pros and cons.

Spanking? No way!

Two new studies published in the journal Child Development report that children who experienced physical discipline are more likely to have behavioral problems as adolescents. Associated to the practice of physical discipline are:

  • low income
  • low educational attainment of the mother
  • single parenthood
  • family stress
  • living in a dangerous neighborhood

However, conservative religious beliefs also seem to promote spanking.

One study, led by Lisa Berlin of the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University suggests (as reported by CNN) that

  • Spanking reinforces negative memories.
  • Spanking is linked to lower scores in mental development test in 3-year olds
  • Spanking predicts aggressive behavior

What I find surprising (and appalling) about the study findings is the fact that children as young as 1 year are being spanked.

Spanking? Why not?

On the flip side, there are also studies which claim that spanking is not that bad.

Robert Larzelere, associate professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University based on his research claims:

  • Spanking is an effective disciplinary method.
  • There is no causal link between spanking and behavioral problems.
  • The best use of spanking is at the ages between 2 and 6 in cases milder discipline tactics, such as time out, do not work.

Is physical discipline passed down in families?

Another study reports that current day moms are more likely to follow their own moms’ parenting practices than current day dads from their parents. The researchers looked at three parenting behaviors, namely spanking, physical affection, and reading to their children. Their results showed that moms of today tended to follow closely what their mothers did in all 3 behaviors. In the case of spanking, it is interesting to note that mommies who were spanked as child are more likely to spank their kids compared to daddies spanked as a child. In fact, there is no connection whatsoever in the parenting behavior of today’s daddies compared to their own moms behavior except in the spanking issue. And on this aspect, they moved the opposite way.

Interesting as these results maybe, I can only speak for myself if I say “No, I don’t follow my mom’s parenting style”, especially in terms of spanking and reading. But then, the circumstances were different then. My mom had less income, lower education and more children to take care of.

What I would love to know is what the next generation of parents and scientists have to say about spanking in thirty, forty years’ time…

So what do you think about spanking?

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