Spanking: What do the Experts Say?
First off, I don’t generally put much weight into anything experts say. My experience with certain types of experts is that they get a degree for the same reason a lot of insecure kids want to become cops; they just want the authority to do and say what they were thinking of doing and saying all along, not for the sake of research or altruism. That being said though, it’s hard to distinguish authentic experts from the ones who have an agenda. Thus, while their opinions are not completely convincing, their research is at least food for thought. Spanking is definitely a gray area of study. In psychological terms child development is so variable that almost all research is open to second guessing. In a lot of instances experts can only make educated guesses. On the subject of spanking, since it is a hot button issue, it’s reasonable to assume a fair number of these people have strong personal opinions on the matter which makes research even more suspect. It isn’t that the research is all incorrect, it’s just that it’s spotty because of non-scientific, human reasons.
The Near Consensus:
A five year review of scientific literature by a group of 15 psychologists appointed by the American Psychological Association concludes, essentially, that spanking is bad. Sandra A Graham-Berman, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, chairs the task force. The findings are these: There are correlations between spanking and increased childhood anxiety and depression, behavioral problems, and diminished cognitive development. As I would have expected with such a gray area subject, there was dissent within the panel among several experts. Robert E. Larzelere, Psychologist at Oklahoma State University, says the research is flawed. He notes that the same negative outcomes in child development happen with virtually all forms of punishment, including spanking, time-outs, grounding or, for that matter, any other punitive measure. While it appears the panel is correct that spanking produces negative outcomes, it seems they’ve glossed over the fact that everything else does too.
My Unprofessional Opinion Based on the Research:
A select statement can describe my punishment progression with the boys. If I ground my kid, or I put him in time-out, and it doesn’t work, then I might as well spank him. Whatever punishment I choose is going to produce similar results, and it’s not like we can go without punishing our kids for bad behavior. I start with the most gentle of corrective measures and progress from there. It seems that the real question these researchers should be asking is not what is the effect of punishment, rather what would be the effect of no punishment at all? Nobody has asked that yet, have they? Perhaps they’re too busy tripping over themselves with the assumption that we’re doing something wrong that they’ve neglected to research the negative consequences of not parenting.
Scientific American Mind magazine, where I first read about this study, says 90% of American parents spank their kids. Interestingly, 70% of the general population approves of spanking. My own analysis of that data suggests that 10% of the general population are sanctimonious childless know-it-alls. It also says that if spanking were really as bad as some of these scientists say it is then, since virtually the entire population does it (whether they admit it or not), we’re either a nation full of maladjusted unproductive delinquents or the experts — well, aren’t. Another variable that was not reported on was the intent behind the spanking. In my experience any punishment can be meted with malice as much as it can be done out of love, spanking included. Did these experts consider the intent or severity? I’d like to know. Bad parents are bad whether they spank or not. Conclusion: I can do without the dictum from on high. If nobody is going to divulge the complete research then I’m not inclined to trust the word of a child development expert.