Tuesday 21 May, 2019

Spare the rod! Spanking leads to aggressive behaviour warn experts

When it comes to spanking, many Caribbean people believe that if you spare the rod, you will spoil the child.

In Cayman too this is a popularly held view, with many people believing that a more relaxed parenting attitude has led to out of control kids.

However, there is new research to suggests that spanking makes children aggressive and can lead to mental health problems.

Keep in mind that though this research is new, and it is not the only research out there on the matter, with other studies, including that of Forehand and McMahon which suggest otherwise, notably that “a mild spanking" could be beneficial when combined with other forms of punishment. 

In a revised policy statement that reiterates its opposition to corporal punishment, the American Academy of Paediatrics cited  this 'new evidence' linking corporal punishment to an increased risk of negative behavioural, cognitive, psychosocial and emotional outcomes for children.

The policy also addresses the harm associated with verbal punishment, such as shaming and humiliation.

Corporal punishment is defined in the report as the “noninjurious, open-handed hitting with the intention of modifying child behaviour.”

The AAP is recommending that parents do not spank, hit, slap, threaten, insult, humiliate or shame to discipline their children.

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“Research has shown that striking children, yelling at them or shaming can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brain’s architecture. Harsh verbal abuse also is linked to mental health problems in preteens and adolescents,” the AAP said.

In stressing that spanking does not work, the AAP said a 2014 study showed that the effects of corporal punishment were transient: within 10 minutes, most children (73 percent) had resumed the same behaviour for which they had been punished.

The AAP said the effects of spanking increases the likelihood of physical injury in children younger than 18 months, may lead to aggressive behaviour and altercations between the parent and child and may negatively affect the parent-child relationship, is associated with increased aggression in preschool and school-aged children, makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future and is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems;

The report said the risk of harsh punishment is increased when the family is experiencing stressors, such as family economic challenges, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, or substance abuse.

The organisation is instead recommending that adults should reinforce appropriate behaviours, set limits, redirect children and set expectations.

The policy, entitled Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children, will be published in the December issue of Paediatrics.

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