14 April 2010

Spanking kids: apparently violence does indeed beget violence

According to an article published this week in the journal Pediatrics, if you want children who are defiant, get frustrated easily, demand immediate attention of their wants, lash out physically at others, hurt animals and refuse to share, one thing that will help is spanking them. Social work and public health researchers at three American universities studied 2,500 parents over seven years and discovered that those who were spanking their three-year-olds produced kids that were much more aggressive at age five than unspanked kids. The study accounted for a number of factors including the children's level of natural aggression, parental maltreatment and neglect, family violence, stress, depression and substance abuse.

This is no surprise. Parents are, after all, kids' primary role models. Children learn principally from their parents and principally from example. They model themselves after mommy and daddy. If their parents teach them violence is acceptable, they absorb the lesson. Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, corporal punishment becomes less effective with repeated use and also makes discipline more difficult as the child ages. Investing time earlier on to instruct a child why its behaviour is wrong may result in a young person that is more self-aware and in-control later.

Unfortunately, corporal punishment of children is still legal in Canada, upheld by the Supreme Court in 2004. The Court did at least insist that the person administering the punishment must be a parent or legal guardian, the force must be used as a correction which the child must be capable of benefiting from, and the force must be reasonable. Slaps to the head were deemed off limits.

Many countries, including Germany, Israel, Spain, the Netherlands, Sweden, Ukraine and Venezuela, have banned the striking of children. A host of institutions in spanking countries state it is associated with negative outcomes and recommend against it. These include the Canadian Pediatrics Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Australian Psychological Society, The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and the Royal College of Psychiatrists in the U.K., and The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.

In light of all this expertise, capped by the most recent study, a particularly convincing one, it's time Canada took one more step toward a fully civilized society and joined the ranks of the non-spankers.


  1. What's "natural aggression"? A level of aggression that enables a child to kill an animal for food was required for survival, so is that natural? I'd argue it is. So long as a kid isn't being cruel while "aggressive", I don't have a big problem with it, the world can use all kinds of people with different levels of aggression.

    If a young child becomes fearless of adults, and gets no punishment they see as serious, then expect a generation of brats or worse. If not spanking, what is more effective as a punishment?

  2. You want children to be afraid of their parents? Really? That resembles the logic men once used to justify beating their wives.

    As for what's more effective than spanking, the article suggests almost anything is.