NEW DELHI : Generally, it is believed that punishing children correct their behavior without having any negative long-term consequences. But recently a study was conducted, the results of which were published in July/August issue of the “American Psychologist”. It clearly stated that physical punishment to children is ineffective and it can result in behavioral and mental health problems.
What is meant by Punishment?
Physical punishment refers to the use of physical force intended to cause discomfort or pain, thus reducing the likelihood of a particular behavior. Punishment includes hitting with the hands or with a tool (belt or stick), and also more violent actions like kicking, burning and etc. Here for our purpose ‘spanking’ is more relevant. It involves striking the buttock with an open hand repeatedly.
For this research data collected in 2012 was utilized, it consisted of 11,000 American families and their kindergarteners. It revealed that over 80% of mothers spank their children.
Beliefs about Spanking
According to parents spanking is effective, but the study revealed that spanking is correlated with disruptive, delinquent and aggressive acts in children; which results in more spanking and thus contributing to the vicious cycle.
A survey of over 800 members of the “American Psychological Association” provided certain astounding results. It showed that the belief that spanking is beneficial is not restricted to the people without extensive knowledge of psychology but also entrenched in the minds of its members. 30% of the members did not believe that spanking can be harmful, 17% felt that spanking is not a problematic way to discipline and 14% advised their clients to use spanking.
The research further revealed that punishment might be harmless and effective up to a certain threshold, but extreme forms may shape alternative behavior in children, i.e. delinquency. So, this research recommends other forms of techniques to discipline children like age-appropriate limits, conveying to the child the consequences of the problematic behavior or simply taking away privileges. The most important factor here will be “consistency”. With consistency, the child will realize that same negative consequences will follow and thus would learn to modify particular behavior. But along with negative consequences for bad behavior, there should be rewards for good behavior too.
1. Gershoff, E. T., Goodman, G. S., Miller-Perrin, C. L., Holden, G. W., Jackson, Yo, & Kazdin, A. E. (2018). The strength of the causal evidence against physical punishment of children and its implications for parents, psychologists, and policymakers. American Psychologist, 73(5), 626-638.
2. Gershoff, E. T., Lansford, J. E., Sexton, H. R., Davis-Kean, P., & Sameroff, A. J. (2012).
Longitudinal links between spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors in a national
sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American families. Child Development, 83, 838-