1 Dec 2010

Study shows strongest evidence yet that spanking kids does more harm than good

TIME - April 12, 2010

Study: Spanking Kids Leads to More Aggressive Behavior

By Alice Park


Disciplining young children is one of the key jobs of any parent — most people would have no trouble agreeing with that. But whether or not that discipline should include spanking or other forms of corporal punishment is a far trickier issue.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not endorse spanking for any reason, citing its lack of long-term effectiveness as a behavior-changing tactic. Instead the AAP supports strategies such as time-outs when children misbehave, which focus on getting kids to reflect on their behavior and the consequences of their actions. Still, as many parents can attest, few responses bring about the immediate interruption of a full-blown tantrum like a swift whack to the bottom.

Now researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. The research supports earlier work on the pitfalls of corporal punishment, including a study by Duke University researchers that revealed that infants who were spanked at 12 months scored lower on cognitive tests at age 3.

"I'm excited by the idea that there is now some nice hard data that can back up clinicians when they share their caution with parents against using corporal punishment," says Dr. Jayne Singer, clinical director of the child and parent program at Children's Hospital Boston, who was not involved in the study.

Led by Catherine Taylor, the Tulane study was the first to control simultaneously for variables that are most likely to confound the association between spanking and later aggressive behavior. The researchers accounted for factors such as acts of neglect by the mother, violence or aggression between the parents, maternal stress and depression, the mother's use of alcohol and drugs, and even whether the mother considered abortion while pregnant with the child.

Each of these factors contributed to children's aggressive behavior at age 5, but they could not explain all of the violent tendencies at that age. Further, the positive connection between spanking and aggression remained strong, even after these factors had been accounted for.

"The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began increased by 50%," says Taylor. And because her group also accounted for varying levels of natural aggression in children, the researchers are confident that "it's not just that children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked."

What the study, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, shows is that outside of the most obvious factors that may influence violent behavior in children, spanking remains a strong predictor. "This study controls for the most common risk factors that people tend to think of as being associated with aggression," says Singer. "This adds more credence, more data and more strength to the argument against using corporal punishment."

Among the mothers who were studied, nearly half (45.6%) reported no spanking in the previous month, 27.9% reported spanking once or twice and 26.5% reported spanking more than twice. Compared with children who were not hit, those who were spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against others.

The reason for that, says Singer, may be that spanking instills fear rather than understanding. Even if a child were to stop his screaming tantrum when spanked, that doesn't mean he understands why he shouldn't be acting up in the first place. What's more, spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to problems.

For children to understand what and why they have done something wrong, it may take repeated efforts on the parent's part, using time-outs — a strategy that typically involves denying the child any attention, praise or interaction with parents for a specified period of time (that is, the parents ignore the child). These quiet times force children to calm down and learn to think about their emotions, rather than acting out on them blindly.

Spanking may stop a child from misbehaving in the short term, but it becomes less and less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child gets older and outgrows spanking. As the latest study shows, investing the time early on to teach a child why his behavior is wrong may translate to a more self-aware and in-control youngster in the long run.

This article was found at:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1981019,00.html


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7 comments:

  1. Why Spanking Does Not Work

    A new analysis concludes that spanking fails to alter kids' behavior in the long term. What it does instead is amp up their aggression.

    By BONNIE ROCHMAN |TIME | February 6, 2012

    Want your kid to stop whatever dangerous/annoying/forbidden behavior he’s doing right now? Spanking will probably work — for now.

    But be prepared for that same child to be more aggressive toward you and his siblings, his friends and his eventual spouse. Oh, and get ready for some other antisocial behaviors too.

    A new analysis of two decades of research on the long-term effects of physical punishment in children concludes that spanking doesn’t work and can actually wreak havoc on kids’ long-term development, according to an article published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

    Studying physical punishment is difficult for researchers, who can’t randomly assign children to groups that are hit and those that aren’t. Instead, they follow children over many years, monitor how much they’re spanked, and then take measure of their aggression over time. “We find children who are physically punished get more aggressive over time and those who are not physically punished get less aggressive over time,” says Joan Durrant, the article’s lead author and a child clinical psychologist and professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba.

    In fact, regardless of the age of the children or the size of the sample, none of more than 80 studies on the effects of physical punishment have succeeded in finding positive associations. “If someone were to hit us to change our behavior, it might harm our relationship with that person. We might feel resentful,” says Durrant. “It’s no different for children. It’s not a constructive thing to do.”

    Children who are spanked may feel depressed and devalued, and their sense of self-worth can suffer. Harsh punishments can wind up backfiring because they can foster lying in children who are desperate to avoid being spanked. Later in life, physical punishment is linked to mental-health problems including depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. There’s neuroimaging evidence that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain involved in performance on IQ tests and up the likelihood of substance abuse. And there’s also early data that spanking could affect areas of the brain involved in emotion and stress regulation.

    Yet, as I wrote last summer in a story about the first real-time study of parents spanking their children, some research has found that up to 90% of parents say they use corporal punishment:

    Despite a battery of disciplinary techniques, including the infamous “time out,” redirection and the increasing emphasis on positive discipline (try substituting “hold the cup carefully” for “don’t spill your juice”), spanking and slapping are still pretty popular.

    Moms and dads who spank do so because they believe it’s effective, and research actually shows that it is — in the short term. A child reaching for a tempting object will stop if he gets swatted. “It does work in the immediate moment, but beyond that, in most cases, it’s very ineffective,” says George Holden, the study’s author and a professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University. “The most common long-term consequence is that children learn to use aggression.”

    Case in point: one mother in the study hit her toddler after the toddler either hit or kicked the mother, admonishing, “This is to help you remember not to hit your mother.”

    “The irony is just amazing,” says Holden.

    continued in next comment...

    http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/06/why-spanking-doesnt-work

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    In some countries, spanking is not a choice. Durrant is currently living in Sweden, where she’s researching child-and-family policies and the evolution of that country’s law prohibiting physical discipline of children. In 1979, Sweden was the first country to pass such legislation; now 32 countries — including much of Europe, Costa Rica, Israel, Tunisia and Kenya — have a similar law.

    Neither the U.S. nor Canada has gotten on board. “Whenever I mention the law, there is an assumption that this is government telling me how to raise my child,” says Durrant. “[But in Sweden] they see it as a way to make sure children get the best start possible in life.”

    Parents who spank often do so by default. Many, particularly those who were hit themselves, find that spanking is the only disciplinary tactic in their toolbox. Doctors are in a position to change that by educating parents about the stages of normal child development, recommending alternative ways to discipline and referring interested parents to appropriate resources and parenting classes. In Sweden, for example, new parents are hooked up with support groups and given information about developmental stages.

    As a result, parents understand their children aren’t being intentional obstructionists; it’s just par for the course. “When children see someone resolve conflict with aggression, they are more likely to learn that behavior,” says Durrant. “Two-year-olds are the most aggressive people in the world. They don’t understand the impact of their behavior, and they can’t inhibit themselves. So the more a child sees someone resolving conflict with aggression, the more aggressive they become.”

    A young toddler who upends her cereal bowl on her head probably isn’t being ornery; she’s just curious to see what will happen. Durrant likes to use her son as an example. When he was 3, he dropped his dad’s toothbrush into the toilet. Another parent might have yelled, but Durrant’s academic background helped her realize that he was just experimenting: he dropped objects into water floating in sinks and bathtubs with nary a scolding; why not toilets too? “I explained what goes into toilets and then said, Do you think Daddy is going to want to put that toothbrush in his mouth now?” Message transmitted with no yelling.

    P.S. Durrant’s son never dropped anything verboten into the toilet again.

    http://healthland.time.com/2012/02/06/why-spanking-doesnt-work/?xid=newsletter-weekly
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  3. Childhood abuse may stunt growth of part of brain involved in emotions

    Alok Jha, The Guardian UK February 13, 2012

    Being sexually or emotionally abused as a child can affect the development of a part of the brain that controls memory and the regulation of emotions, a study suggests.

    The results add to the growing body of evidence that childhood maltreatment or abuse raises the risk of mental illnesses such as depression, personality disorders and anxiety well into adulthood.

    Martin Teicher of the department of psychiatry at Harvard University scanned the brains of almost 200 people who had been questioned about any instances of abuse or stress during childhood. He found that the volumes of three important areas of the hippocampus were reduced by up to 6.5% in people exposed to several instances of maltreatment – such as physical or verbal abuse from parents – in their early years.

    "The exquisite vulnerability of the hippocampus to the ravages of stress is one of the key translational neuroscience discoveries of the 20th century," wrote Teicher on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

    Early clues of the relationship came when scientists found that raising stress hormones for extended periods in rats reduced the number of neurons in the hippocampal areas, a result that has since been replicated in many non-human primates.

    Other work has shown that people with a history of abuse or maltreatment during childhood are twice as likely to have recurrent episodes of depression in adulthood. These individuals are also less likely to respond well to psychological or drug-based treatments.

    In the new study, Teicher's team scanned the brains of 73 men and 120 women aged between 18 and 25. The volunteers filled in a standard questionnaire used by psychiatrists to assess the number of "adverse childhood experiences".

    Overall, 46% of the group reported no exposure to childhood adversity and 16% reported three or more forms of maltreatment, the most common being physical and verbal abuse from parents. Other factors included corporal punishment, sexual abuse and witnessing domestic violence.

    The sample did not include people on psychiatric medication or anyone who had been exposed to other stressful events such as near-drownings or car accidents.

    Andrea Danese, a clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at King's College London's Institute of Psychiatry, who was not involved in the study, said Teicher's results took scientists a step closer to understanding the complex relationship between childhood maltreatment and brain development. "The large sample size allows for reliable detection of even comparatively small effects of maltreatment on the brain, whereas the recruitment from the general population allows for a less biased interpretation of the study, which builds on previous research often carried out in psychiatric patients."

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    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/feb/13/childhood-abuse-growth-brain-emotions

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    The high-resolution brain imaging analysis allowed Teicher to home in on minute areas of the hippocampus and explore the association between maltreatment and this brain region in finer detail than ever before. "This is important because not all areas in the hippocampus are equally sensitive to the effect of stress mediators, such as cortisol and inflammatory biomarkers," said Danese. "Thus, the authors took advantage of this gradient to indirectly test the mechanisms through which childhood maltreatment could affect the brain."

    One limitation of the study might be that it required the volunteers to recall their childhood experiences, added Danese. "The findings are based on the perceptions and memories that participants have of their childhood rather than on objective events. This may be problematic because some groups of individuals could be more or less prone than others to report experiences of maltreatment. This 'recall' bias has been described in individuals with a history of depression, who may be more likely to report abuse."

    However, Teicher's team was able to test whether a history of depression or post-traumatic stress disorder might explain his observed effects of childhood maltreatment on the hippocampus, and showed that the results were independent of these factors.

    Danese said future studies would need to clarify further the direction of the effect. "Although the authors report that childhood maltreatment is associated with smaller hippocampus regions, it is possible that these abnormalities pre-dated and possibly facilitated maltreatment exposure. Longitudinal and twin studies will help to clarify this issue."

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/feb/13/childhood-abuse-growth-brain-emotions

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  5. Spanking may be linked to later mental disorders

    Positive reinforcement techniques preferred for discipline

    CBC News July 2, 2012

    Adults who were subjected to physical punishment such as spanking as children are more likely to experience mental disorders, say Canadian researchers who encourage other forms of discipline.

    Monday's issue of the journal Pediatrics includes a study on the proportion of illnesses such as depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug abuse as well as personality disorders that may be attributable to physical punishment.

    Physical punishment was defined as pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting in the absence of more severe maltreatment of a child through physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect or exposure to intimate partner violence.

    "It definitely points to the direction that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age and we need to be considering that when we're thinking about policy and programs so we can protect children from potentially harmful outcomes," said study author Tracie Afifi, who is in the department of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba.

    Afifi hopes the findings from the study that involved more than 34,000 U.S. adults will make parents think twice about spanking.

    Afifi acknowledged it's not a causal effect and the study design can't prove the link, but she said the statistical association is clear.

    "Parents need to be aware of this relationship," Afifi said.

    A surprising finding was that increases in education and income were associated with higher odds of harsh physical punishment, the researchers said.

    "It is important for pediatricians and other health-care providers who work with children and parents to be aware of the link between physical punishment and mental disorders based on the study," Afifi's team concluded.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason and the Canadian Pediatric Society recommends that physicians strongly discourage the use of physical punishment.

    The authors suggested a more explicit position that spanking, smacking and slapping should not be used with children of any age.

    Spanking is outlawed more than 30 countries. It is legal for parents to use physical punishment on their children in Canada and the U.S.

    "Everybody's tempted when kids are bad, but there are other ways of teaching your kids the right behaviour," said mother Nikki Quinn of Halifax.

    Afifi recommends children be disciplined with positive reinforcement techniques, which have been reviewed and supported in medical literature.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/health/story/2012/06/29/spanking-mental-health-drug-abuse.html

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  6. Spanking: Parenthood's Dirty Little (and Common) Secret

    by Claire McCarthy, M.D., Huffington Post July 2, 2012

    This week a study was released saying when children are disciplined using harsh physical punishment like spanking, they are at higher risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental health problems -- even if they aren't otherwise abused or maltreated. This is scary, because I just recently read an article in the Boston Globe that said that 70 percent of Americans think that spanking is sometimes necessary -- and 90 percent of parents of toddlers spank them.

    Ninety percent?

    Clearly, as the article pointed out, this is happening behind closed doors. If you even talk about spanking your kid, let alone do it in public, there's a reasonable chance that social services will be knocking on your door.

    Although I wouldn't have guessed 90 percent, I certainly know that parents spank their kids. As a pediatrician, it's part of my job to talk with families about discipline -- and in those discussions, spanking comes up relatively frequently. And when those investigators go knocking at my patients' doors, as part of their investigation they call me. So I've had lots of conversations with families about spanking.

    What has been very clear to me is that the vast majority of parents who spank do it in an effort to do the right thing. They aren't out to hurt their kids; they are good parents. The Globe article quoted Dr. Murray Straus, a sociologist at the University of New Hampshire who studies the effects of corporal punishment on kids, as saying that people think that spanking will work when nothing else does. From what I've heard from parents over the years, this rings true to me.

    Parents see spanking as a way to make their children understand that they are really serious about something. My mother spanked me as a child -- but she reserved it for two circumstances: when I did something dangerous (like running out into the street) or when I told a lie. These were the things she most didn't want me to do, and she saw spanking as the way to get that message across.

    But research shows that actually, spanking isn't more effective than any other form of discipline -- and it can end up having effects that parents really don't want. It's not just mental health problems like the current study and other research show. Spankees are also more likely to have trouble controlling their temper -- not surprising, given that so often parents do it in moments of frustration or anger or both. It's not exactly setting the best example for temper control. They may even have a lower IQ.

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    The most common "side effect" of spanking, though, is that spankees are more likely to hit other children. This makes sense to me, and is something I talk about with parents a lot. When you spank a child you are teaching them that hitting is okay -- especially that bigger people can hit smaller people. Is that a lesson you really want them to learn?

    Now, not every kid who is spanked turns into a depressed, angry high-school dropout who beats people up. There are plenty of kids who turn out just fine. But if it's not more effective, and there are other ways to discipline your child, why take the risk?

    I don't spank my kids. But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about it in those moments when I have either been pushed to the absolute limit of my anger or frustration -- or when one of my children has done something that has scared the bejesus out of me and what I wanted more than anything was to be sure that they never, ever did it again.

    But I don't do it. My memories of being spanked are filled with humiliation and pain, and those aren't memories that I want my children to have.

    Until I read the Boston Globe article, I didn't know that many countries -- like Sweden, Germany, Spain and Venezuela -- have banned spanking. Attempts to do anything similar even on a local level here in the U.S. have fallen flat pretty quickly.

    Although I understand why spanking is parenthood's dirty little secret (nobody wants social services at the door), I wish we could find a way to talk more openly about it. If we don't talk about it, we don't get the chance to help people understand why it can be harmful -- and help them learn about other ways of discipline. If we don't talk about it, we miss a chance to reach out to stressed parents and give them support. Parenthood is really hard work -- we do better at it when we have help.

    We all want our kids to be safe, well-behaved and to learn right from wrong. I think we can do that without spanking -- especially if we work together. Only if we work together.

    To see the links embedded in this article go to:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/claire-mccarthy-md/spanking_b_1608747.html

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