Behavioral and Long-Term Effects of Spanking Behavioral Essay

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Behavioral and Long-Term Effects of Spanking

Behavioral and Long-Term Effect of Spanking

Many of the studies pointed out that violence of adult are traced in the pattern of violence at home, and mostly in the experience of spanking during childhood. Despite the information and advocacy available in almost all media these days, there are still parents who thought that spanking their children to emphasize discipline is still beneficial. The benefits cited by those supporting spanking as acceptable method of discipline varied across culture and race. Generally, there are three views or positions about spanking as a form of discipline (Benject C. & Kazdin A, 2003). Pro-corporal punishment, anti-corporal punishment, and conditional corporal punishment, which will be discussed in this paper. I shall outline the two differing arguments (pro-corporal and anti-corporal punishment) and conclude with the conditional corporal punishment which also reflect my own view, and which for me, is a neutral ground for both arguments to be accepted.


Disciplining the children is part of parental responsibility. Discipline is the practice of training people to obey rules or a code of behavior, using techniques and provides system of rules of conduct to change, improve, control or correct behavior (Oxford Dictionary, 2012) There are various parenting styles that every parent is comfortable implementing at home, and that includes the manner by which they discipline their children. Some forms of discipline vary by family, culture and race. However, in all culture, corporal punishment of children seemed to be accepted, perpetuated and was passed from generation to the next since time immemorial. Corporal punishment is the uses of forces-which is physical, but not hazardous or injure the child- with the aim or intention to inflict pain for the purpose of discipline, to correct or control a child's behavior (Straus, MA and Gelles RJ, 1990). Spanking should not include injury to a child or any harm brought by or due to physical abuses such as kicking, punching, burning, and other forms of violence which are clearly abusive in nature. Baumrind (2001) defined spanking as "striking the child on the buttocks or extremities with an open hand without inflicting physical injury, with the intent to modify behavior" (p.1). Spanking children had been practiced by many parents across culture and across time. Spanking or hitting the child is mostly the convenient disciplining measures of some parents to stop the children from misbehaving. However, in recent studies and researches, it is argued that spanking has long-term, negative effect on behavior of children. Some studies suggests that short-term response of children to spanking may gradually turn into a long-term response that could manifest into their adult life, which includes but not limited to aggressiveness, violence and abusive behaviors, and lack of emotional control.

1. Pro-Corporal Punishment: Spanking has beneficial and positive effect on the behavior of children

Many parents found it easier to use corporal punishment such as spanking to correct the child's unwanted and unacceptable behavior. Many pro-spanking advocates defend the use of spanking as a method of disciplining the child which is differentiated to physical abuse. Spanking is hitting the child in the bottom using hand; it is a series of smacks with an open hand in the lower extremities (bottom, feet, legs) of the child (Baumrind, Does Causally relevant research support a blanket injunction against disciplinary spanking by parents?, 2001). It is never hitting the face or other sensitive body parts of the child using the hand or other things which may leave marks or welts and bruises. Corporal punishment such as spanking entails pain, but according to supporters to this argument, all kinds of punishments are painful in nature; this is needed to effect change, if the purpose of such action is modification of behavior or instilling a lesson to a child. Some advocates of this argument uses the bible quotation "Spare the rod and spoil a child" (Proverbs, 13:24, New International Version). Although this quote is considered "misconstrued" and incomplete by many scholars when applied to some context, many parents accept this quote as basis for corporal punishment which is believed to be significant in teaching children to learn respect to authority, adherence to rules of good behavior, and socialization. There are few authoritative opinion, study and write-ups that fully support the effectiveness of spanking as corporal punishment. To date, opinions that are favorable to corporal punishment are all based on criticial inferences and interpretations on the studies done by authors and institutions who and which are mostly inclined to support anti-corporal punishment (American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Psychological Association, American Humane Association, American Medical, American Public Health Association and other related organizations). In viewing the researches and studies produced by these institutions, The League of Women Voters of Sourth Carolina (Kimbrough R. & Melton, JD, 2011) summed up that:

It cannot be concluded that all children who are spanked will turn out to be aggressive, delinquent or have mental problems. But there is also no reason to believe that corporal punishment by itself teaches children right from wrong or that it deters them from misbehaving over the longer term. (pp. 1).

The argument was based on the criticism and analysis of the study done by Gershoff (2002, pp. 128-579) which, according to the critique of this argument, lacks the establishment of a solid basis on the negative long-term effect of physical punishment on children. It in fact showed that corporal punishment is beneficial since it allows a short interval of punishment which the child can also bear and respond to, in a short period. Corporal punishment or spanking, immediately result to desired behavior sought by the parents from the child, for example, compliance. The argument also criticizes the research as "vague" in establishing solid facts and data which lead to the conclusion that physical corporal punishment is detrimental and has long-term negative effect on children across culture, race, parenting styles, and other factors. Pro-corporal punishment supporters argues that Gershoff (2008) research, which attempts to establish physical and verbal aggression and anti-social behavior as product of physical corporal punishment, cannot be generalized to be the only cause of negative behaviors among children such as defiance which promotes aggressiveness. The supporters argued further that it is not the punishment that causes children to be defiant, instead, it is the defiance observed in children that provoked punishment.Studies of Gershoff also need to be reviewed since it considered acts of physical abuses such as hitting the child with object and slapping, under the spanking or corporal punishment category. In another review of a study done by Larzelere (2000), the result of the analysis showed that mild spanking used to support mild disciplinary aim is not detrimental to children and infact, effective enough to reduce non-compliance and violent behavior among children. While there is evidence that harsh punishment produced changes in the brain resulting to dysfunctional behavior, there is no strong support or evidence that spanking and other mild corporal punishment has the same effect. The distinction of effects in biochemical, functional and structural changes happening in the brain between the act of child abuse and spanking is not clearly established in many studies (Baumrind, D. Larzelere, R.E. & Cowan, P.A., 2002) . Therefore, the pro-corporal punishment advocates insist that spanking is an effective method to discipline children.

2. Anti-Corporal Punishment: Spanking has negative behavioral long-term effect on children

Survey of parents from various cities in the United States showed that children who are spanked frequently displayed defiant behaviors that are carried on to their adult life. Gershoff (2002) presented and examined relationship among variables that correlates to corporal punishment: compliance of the child, anti-social behavior, aggression, moral internalization, mental health and kinds of affect that children develop. Other studies showed that apart from violent behavior, children who are frequently spanked displays impatient behavior, demand immediate gratification of their wants and needs, has low tolerance for frustration and usually decide out of temper, moods and tantrums, escape or avoidance of settings, people and object related to corporal punishment (Hutchinson, 1977; Kazdin, 2001). According to Psychologists, spanking sets up a cycle of bad behavior. It is fear rather than respect and understanding which predominates the responses in corporal punishment. Responses to spanking become an established pattern or way of reacting of children later in life, which reactions include but not limited to apprehension, aggressiveness, fear and defiance. The act of spanking itself produces feelings of anxiety, self-criticism, and self-doubt (Niolon, 2010). From various studies of Gershoff (2002 & 2008), a more likely change of behavior are observed in children who were spanked, compared to those who are not. Children who are frequently spanked displayed aggressive, angry and stressed reaction. Variables associated with Corporal Punishment includes the following:

1. Immediacy of Compliance by children is observable and evident in the event of spanking or using corporal punishment, which affect immediate reflexes, varying from the need to avoid, defend self, or assert self from impending harm.

2. The immediate reaction of children in response to corporal punishment…

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