As a mother who sometimes utilizes spanking as a back-up form of discipline for my toddlers and a healthy adult who was indeed spanked, I found this new study supposedly proving that spanking had long-term psychological effects rather suspect. I didn’t want to be close-minded, however. This would not be the first time my parental views were corrected by science — that is, had the media accurately depicted the study’s findings without bias. If you actually go and read the full study from the Journal of American Pediatrics, you get a little different and accurate version of this new study.
It wasn’t even about spanking
First of all, “spanking” was not the subject of the study at all. The study sought to discover if harsh physical punishment had lasting psychological effects. To clarify, typical occasional spankings were NOT the subject of the study. Survey respondents were asked the following question, “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or another adult living in your house?” Only respondents who choose a rating above of “sometimes” or above were considered. Acts of severe maltreatment such as sexual abuse were excluded. The majority of parents I know who do spank, including me, do not push and shove their children. In addition the study included, quoting again, “…acts of physical force beyond that of slapping, which some may consider more severe than that of ‘customary’ physical punishment (ie. spanking).” It actually says in the study in black and white that spanking itself was not the subject of the study. The study also only found a 6 percent occurrence of harsh physical punishment, and considering that 61 percent of parents condone spanking, you can see how claiming this study proved spanking as a form of discipline has negative psychological effects is a stretch of the facts.
Even if it had been about spanking the study had major loopholes.
Next, you have to realize this study was a retroactive survey, meaning it was based on the responses of those filling out the questionnaire, which were based off of their own perspective and memory of past events. Results also failed to consider other factors — for example, perhaps parents who often use “harsh physical discipline” also drop the ball in other key parental categories. It would be impossible to factor in every possible variable that affects the final psychological makeup of an adult. If you look hard enough at any data, you can form an association of some kind. I bet I could find that those that eat bananas are more likely to have mental illnesses. To chop this study up to mean that every child who is spanked has a 41 percent higher risk of depression, 59 percent higher chance of drug dependence or abuse, and 93 percent higher risk of mania is beyond a stretch of the facts, it’s just not a fact. In fact, per the study, it’s a lie.
It’s not really new information for parents.
It’s not a revolutionary suggestion that abusive actions have negative effects on your kid. All this study did was validate the reconsideration of what “abuse” actually constitutes. It did nothing to suggest spanking as a form of discipline fell into that classification or to offer a match to the mob torches of parents pointed at the spanking parents of the world. My stance that occasional spanking in severe situations is OK remains unable to be factually challenged and in my mind is perfectly acceptable.