By: PaxCare Staff
Here is an excellent article on the challenge to effectively communicate what research says about corporal punishment and to help parents do an even better job without it. The author is a researcher at the Columbia Univ. School of Social Work.
The Negative Effects of Corporal Punishment
We found that children who were spanked by their mothers at age 5, even relatively infrequently, went on to have higher levels of behavior problems at age 9, even after taking into account other family risk factors that also affect child behavior. Given the chicken vs. egg cyclical nature of this, we also controlled for earlier problems with the children to ensure that it wasn’t just that kids who acted out were simply being spanked more.
And 5-year-olds who were spanked frequently, defined as two or more times a week, by their fathers also went on to have lower vocabulary scores at age 9, even after controlling for an array of other risk factors and earlier child vocabulary. This is an important finding, because few studies in this area have examined effects on cognitive development.
A leading researcher on child spanking, Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas at Austin, correctly suggests that some of these cognitive effects may be indirect rather than a result of spanking only. Parents who spank may not talk to their children as often, or kids with behavioral problems may be more distracted at school. To account for some of these possibilities, we did control for a host of other family factors, such as the mom’s IQ, the child’s earlier verbal intelligence, the child’s behavioral problems as well as a measure of how cognitively stimulating the home environment was. So, it appears that spanking is having an effect on vocabulary above and beyond those other factors.
Some Alternative Solutions
The author goes on to say that we professionals need to do a better job telling parents not just to stop spanking but what to do instead. We agree. In Parenting with Grace: Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids Dr. Gregory Popcak and his wife present over 40 different discipline techniques that have been shown to work more effectively than spanking. When you use these techniques instead of corporal punishment, you can actually have higher expectations for and better behavior from your kids. Test us out by picking up a copy of Parenting with Grace.