Monday, February 06, 2012

Canadian researchers denounce spanking as child abuse (poll)

| »
Man spanking boy in 1951 health insurance magazine ad
If your child has this look of pain and fear on their face when you discipline them, you’re doing it wrong.

Corporeal punishment is child abuse. There are no two ways about it, advocates’ complaints notwithstanding. As I’ve said, if you rely on hitting your children to make them understand and obey you, you are a failure as a parent. And Canadian researchers are now backing this notion up with research indicating that children who are spanked tend to develop various developmental issues as a result:

Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal includes a paper reviewing how the understanding of the effects of physical punishment of children has shifted dramatically in 20 years.

Children who have experienced physical punishment tend to be more aggressive toward parents, siblings, peers and, later, spouses, and are more likely to develop antisocial behaviour, said Joan Durrant, of the department of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba and Ron Ensom of Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa.

Physical punishment is also associated with a variety of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and use of drugs and alcohol.

Pain from punishment could disrupt parent-child attachment, increase levels of the stress hormone cortisol or interfere with how the brain regulates stress, Durrant and Ensom suggested.

They noted that when parents in more than 500 families were trained to reduce their use of physical punishment, the difficult behaviours in the children also declined.

I can’t say whether all the consequences depicted in this research (which sounds rather preliminary to me) are sound, or whether further study into the matter won’t contradict these results. Personally, I’d also add that physical punishment encourages kids to obey their parents out of fear rather than respect, which doesn’t help matters to begin with. But nonetheless, I’m sure it must come as quite a shock to certain people that physically hurting people to prove a point, especially developing children, just might screw them up in the long run.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in 2004 that parents have the right to spank their children, but only insofar as certain rules are followed, including no use of implements (belts, switches, etc.) and no hits to the head. But researchers are now calling for the Criminal Code’s justification for physical punishment of children to be removed altogether, thereby forcing parents to use other tools than restrained physical violence to teach their kids right from wrong.

Meanwhile, CBC also has a poll. Make me proud:

Should spanking be allowed under Canadian law?

  • Yes, the limits set out by the Supreme Court in 2004 are reasonable. (58.49%, 737 votes)
  • Yes, but the limits set out by the Supreme Court are too strict. (13.33%, 168 votes)
  • No, there's never a reason to hit a child. (26.11%, 329 votes)
  • I'm not sure. (2.06%, 26 votes)
  • Results retrieved on 02/06/12 3:47 PM.

    Honestly, it ought to raise more than a few eyebrows and questions that the only people adults are still legally allowed to hit anymore are children.