The Science on Why Spanking Kids is Wrong
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A new metanalysis examined the past 50 years of research and found that there is incredibly strong evidence to suggest hitting your kid is bad for them. It’s horrifying that we even need this to be said, but apparently if you say “spanking” instead of “hitting,” about 80% of parents think it’s a totally fine thing to do to your kids. So here we are, carefully performing scientific research that shows that spanking kids makes them more likely to express anti-social behavior, aggression, and mental health disorders.
One of the reasons this is so hotly debated is because everyone has some kind of experience with it. All of us have been kids who were either spanked or not spanked, so the first thing all of us do is compare this result to our own anecdotal knowledge: “Well, I was spanked and I turned out great!”
Well let me tell you, you did not turn out great because you turned out to be a person who values your own anecdotal observation over rigorous science.
I WAS spanked, and I DID turn out great. But maybe if I wasn’t spanked, I would have turned out even greater — I know, it’s so hard to imagine — but maybe I’d have less generalized anxiety or I’d be more pleasant to play board games with, or I wouldn’t cancel so many social engagements at the last minute because I’d rather stay inside and play video games. “I’m sorry I can’t come to your birthday, Amy, but when I was six my parents smacked my ass with a yardstick and now I have slight anti-social tendencies.”
The researchers point out that so many people hit their kids because they don’t realize that spanking is on the same spectrum as other forms of physical abuse, and that absolutely has to change. There is no evidence that physical abuse “works” for correcting behavior, and quite a lot of evidence to suggest that it has the opposite effect, making kids more likely to act out.
So how do we educate the huge number of parents who hit their kids? Well, we could publicize studies like this and offer them resources for learning how to successfully modify their children’s behavior in healthy ways, using reward systems and non-physical negative reinforcement instead of corporal punishment.
StopSpanking.org, for instance, has free pamphlets and links to science-based websites to help solve even the most difficult behavioral problems in kids without violence.
So then how do we fix the problem of all the people who show up whenever a study like this comes out, filling comment sections with cries of “I was spanked and I turned out great”? I don’t know. I really don’t know. I feel like I’ve tried everything, but I guess in the end I should just smack them on the ass until they learn to stop comparing robust scientific research to their own personal anecdotes.
Or also education. I’m not sure.