Means of Child Discipline:
Should Parents Use Corporal Punishment to Discipline Their Children?
Have you ever seen a child being spanked by his or her parents in the supermarkets or shopping malls because of their misconduct? Have you ever seen parents whacking or thrashing their children in the alleys due to their disobedience? If your answer is yes, have you ever considered about whether physical punishment is applicable for parents to discipline their children? Despite that to spare the rod is, traditionally, to spoil the child, the use of corporal punishment is an impracticable way for parents to perform in terms of its detrimental impact on their children, including both physical and mental problems, behavioral problems, as well as less internalization of moral norms.
It is undeniable that corporal punishment has an adverse impact on youngsters physically and mentally. Above all, in most cases, physical abuse occurs within the context of corporal punishment. According to the definition given by the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information (2000), “physical abuse is characterized by the infliction of physical injury as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, shaking, or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child, rather the injury may have resulted from over-discipline or physical punishment” ( qtd. in Gershoff 540), in other words, physical abuse and punishment are closely associate with each other. A national study of child maltreatment in 1998 in Canada, which gives a breakdown of different categories of physical abuse, including shaken baby syndrome, inappropriate punishment, and other forms of abuse ( Trocmé and Wolfe 13). There were 69% of substantiated cases involving inappropriate punishment inside the range of corporal punishment such as, “hitting with hand or object” while only 31% of substantiated investigations contained other more serious forms of physical abuse, like “burning a child or hitting the child with a fist”. Consequently , on the basis of the statistical data, physical abuse is more likely to become potential outcome of over-discipline that results in physical injuries.
Furthermore, corporal punishment is also a risk factor of impaired mental health. Considering the data from the National Epidemiologic Survey in the years of 2004 and 2005, which was published by American Academy of Pediatrics, it confirms that children who were physically punished have more tendency to different sorts of mental disorders, like “major depression”, “any mood disorder” and “general anxiety disorder” than those who do not suffer from physical discipline. One of the victims of physical punishment, Kathy Darbyshire, whose father hit her almost everyday in her childhood, suffered from insomnia due to extreme anxiety, which resulted in her multiple times of suicide attempts. In a recent interview, she says, “I was afraid all the time. I was lonely and I was angry. I had no self-esteem. I thought I was nothing. I still don’t think much of myself,” (consumer.healthday.com). It can be concluded that physical discipline brings about pain, fear, loneliness and resentment, which are the great contributors of various mental problems. Hence, parents should not use corporal punishment to teach their children since physical injuries and psychological problems exert negative influences on children’s health.
In spite of the initial purpose of corporal punishment, which is to correct children’s misconduct based on the definition provided by Durrant and Ensom (1), it causes their severe behavioral problems. A well-known scientific research is able to confirm that corporal punishment is the main culprit. Gershoff, an expert in parenting, claims that physical punishment are closely related with aggressive behaviors of children in terms of her findings in 27 studies (Durrant and Ensom 8). In accordance with the statistical data in her meta-analysis, which shows the great disparity between the behaviors of children, who are spanked and not spanked by their caretakers. Under the circumstance of physical discipline, children are more inclined to have “aggressive behaviors”, “delinquent and anti-social behaviors” (545). According to Murray Straus, who researched domestic violence throughout his life, “children learn from corporal punishment the script to follow for almost all violence. The basic principle of that script is what underlies most instances of parents’ hitting children–that when someone does something outrageous and won’t listen to reason, it is morally correct to physically attack the offender. That principle, which is taught by corporal punishment, explains most instances of violence” (qtd. in Cast Et al. 246); namely, children will consider that violence is the only way for resolution if they inflict physical punishment by their parents. That is the reason why corporal punishment causes children’s misbehavior, which disobeys the original intention.
Lastly, children shows less internalization of moral values when they are consistently hit or spanked. Based on the summary of effects of physical punishment, which was done by Global Initiative in 2013, “corp oral punishment can reduce empathy” (4). It can be proved by a crucial study, which was published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family. The author, Clifton P. Flynn, asked 267 undergraduate students to complete 18-pages-long questionnaires about their experiences of “domestic violence” and “animal cruelty”. To determine the perpetuation of animal cruelty, participants were asked to choose five different options in terms of their personal experiences: “killed a cat”, “killed a stray or wild animal”, “hurt or tortured an animal to tease it or to cause it pain”, “touched an animal sexually”, as well as “had sex with an animal”. According to a table, 24.1% of children, who were spanked, perpetuated animal abuse, compared with 13.1% of children who were not hit (977). Research suggests that corporal punishment increases the children’s likelihood of violence to animals; in other words, it undermines their sympathy that may have difficulties in showing their kindness and compassion towards people. What is more, physical punishment does not teach youngsters how to behave appropriately and why they should behave well. The only thing they understand from their abusive parents is to avoid punishment, rather then behaving well altruistically (qtd. in Gershoff 541). Therefore, without the supervision of their parents, it is more likely for them to make mistakes again. More importantly, physical punishment can not solve the real underlying problem; it can only threatens children at certain extent, and gives them fear and horror to become obedient to their guardians.
Nonetheless, some people argue that corporal punishment is an effective way to discipline children as it can stop children misbehaving immediately that matches with the parents’ primary intention (Gershoff 233). Yet it only works in a short-term; if they consistently being physically punished, it will destroy the relationship of children and parents, and it may reduce their desire to comply (Durrant 7). ” The primary conclusion from the meta-analysis of 88 studies conducted over 62 years is that parental corporal punishment is associated significantly eleven child outcomes and experiences. Ten of these outcomes are negative, and only one was positive, namely immediate compliance,” says Gershoff in a interview. Apparently, disadvantages of physical discipline outweigh the advantages. Therefore, despite the fact that corporal punishment seems a straightforward approach, parents should never use it as a way of disciplining their children.
Ultimately, given all the drawbacks of corporal punishment, parents should never use it as a way of disciplining their children since it adversely impacts children’s development of bodies and minds. Instead, loving discipline can be the better option for both children and parents, and it is never too late for parents to change their discipline style. “All parents make mistakes. If you feel you’ve been too harsh or too permissive, what you might say to your children is ‘I thought the way I handling things was the best, but now I realize it’s want to work with you together as a family, and I’d appreciated your help”, says Jane Nelsen, a licensed marriage, family, and child counselor and the author of Child Discipline ( “World Book Science Year”). Now, imaging a situation in which a boy is running into the street, suppose you are his parents, are you going to teach him how to be safe or just spank him?
Afifi, Tracie O., “Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative US Sample.” Pediatrics, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2 July 2012, pediatrics.
Cast, Alicia D., et al. “Childhood Physical Punishment and Problem Solving in Marriage.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 21, no. 2, Mar. 2006, pp. 244–261., doi:10.1177/0886260505282287.
“Disciplining Your Children.” World Book Inc, Chicago, 2009. eLibrary, https://explore.proquest.com/document/1972290295?accountid=168443
Durrant, Joan, and Robert Ensom. “Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth.”
Flynn, Clifton P. “Exploring the Link between Corporal Punishment and Children’s Cruelty to Animals.” Journal of Marriage and the Family, vol. 61, no. 4, 1999, pp. 971-91. eLibrary,
Gershoff, Elizabeth Thompson. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences:A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review.” Psychological Bulletin, vol.128, no.4, 2002, pp. 539-579., doi:10.1037//0033-2909.128.4.539.
Gershoff, Elizabth T., and Susan H. Bitensky. “The Case Against Corporal Punishment of Children: Covering Evidence From Social Science Research and International Human Rights Law and Implications for U.S. Public Policy.” Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, vol. 13, no. 4, 2007, pp. 231–272., doi:10.1037/1076-8918.104.22.168.
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Trocmé , Nico, and David Wolfe. “Child Maltreatment in Canada: Selected Results from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect.”
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