A new study by Canadian researchers shows spanking children can do more harm than previously thought, including causing “long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child’s IQ.” Currently banned in 32 countries, physical punishment is still an accepted practice in large parts of the world. The researchers behind this study hope parents can take the discipline discussion out of an ethical realm and begin to look at the issue from a medical point of view.
Resulting from the analysis of over 20 years of research, the report was published this week by the Canadian Medical Association Journal. Joan Durant—one of the authors of the study and a professor at the University of Manitoba—feels the great amount of evidence showing the damage corporal punishment can have on children goes far beyond an ethical controversy. “Here, we have more than 80 studies, I would say more than 100, that show the same thing, and yet we keep calling it controversial.” She purports her research shows physical punishment makes children more aggressive and antisocial, and can also cause cognitive impairments along with developmental difficulties. In addition, Durant stated in an interview:
“There are no studies that show any long term positive outcomes from physical punishment.”
Regardless, many people are concerned that parents should continue to have the right to determine how their child is disciplined. Some may point to published works such as “To Train Up A Child” by Michael and Debi Pearl. Critics, however, consider this book to be a guide showing parents how to beat their children into submission. In any case, it appears the debate on corporal punishment will rage on for some time to come.
The problem with relying on physical discipline is that it’s a slippery slope. Once one crosses that threshold and begins hitting their kids, it’s too easy for things to get out of hand. What starts as a calculated move can quickly turn into lashing out in anger, and things just go downhill from there. There are too many examples in the news of adults letting disciplinary measures get out of control—from the Hot Sauce Mom and Hot Sauce Teacher, to the guy who threw his son overboard. Perhaps the most egregious example of this came to us last year when Hillary Adams released a video of her father—a Texas family court judge—whipping and verbally abusing her when she was 16 years old. Needless the say, the YouTube video went viral overnight. Even so, there were those who defended the judge, stating that physical punishment does not harm children in the long run. Perhaps the best response at the time was given by Dr. Drew Pinsky on his blog, in regards to the victims:
I know what happens to kids’ brains. I have to deal with it later. . .It’s all so disturbing to me because I see these people as adults. I’m the one that has to put this all back together with my peers. Let me tell you, it’s not subtle. It’s not a question of whether it harms them or not. It’s overwhelmingly obvious and it sickens me.