Corporal Punishment of Children

On the website of Project NoSpank ( ), Debra L. Stang wrote about eight myths about spanking:

Myth Comments
1. "Being spanked never hurt anybody."  Spanking causes non-lethal physical hurt most of the time, but it also creates mortification, psychological distress, low self-esteem, masochism and depression that may be permanent.
2. "I was spanked, and I'm okay."   People who were hit when they were vulnerable children are more likely to think it is acceptable -- even desirable -- for a fully-grown adult to use painful physical force against a small defenseless child.
3. "Some children need a good, hard spanking."   The same immediate results could have been achieved by non-violent means, so the real reason that some parents resort to corporal punishment is to satisfy some of their own misguided needs.
4.  "Spanking is the best way to stop dangerous behavior in toddlers."   Small toddlers have short attention spans, so that violent and non-violent methods have the same effectiveness.
5. "Being spanked keeps children out of trouble." While spanking may teach some children to avoid certain behaviors out of fear of punishment, it does not teach them to think about the rights and wrongs.  Thus, this creates a future generation of people who will excuse their appalling grown-up misdeeds by saying "I was only following orders."
6. "Nothing but spanking works on some children."  Spanking is no more or less effective than non-violent means such as explanation, time out, or verbal command.
7. "Spanking isn't hitting or violence -- it's discipline." If an Alzheimer's patient is hit hard on the buttocks by a nurse's aide for poking at an electrical outlet, it would be considered physical battery under the law.  Yet the same behavior directed at a two-year-old child is considered just 'spanking' and thus 'sub-abusive.'
8. "Spanking is not harmful if it's done by loving, supportive parents." It is actually even more distressing for a child to feel loved by the very adults who perpetrate violence against him or her.

There is no accepted behavioral norm with respect to applying corporal punishment on children.  Some parents believe it, others ahbor it.  Much of the behavior seemed to have been inherited and propagated within the family.  In turn, there may be international differences with respect to this issue.  

We will now look at some survey data from the 2003 TGI Brasil study.  Within this survey, there are 8,907 persons between the ages of 20 to 64 years old who were interviewed during the year 2003.  These survey respondents were presented with the statement "Children need to be physically punished once in a while."  A total of 31% of the respondent said that they totally agreed with this statement.

In the next chart below, we show the incidences by the gender and sex.  Within the category of domestic violence, there are spousal abuse and child abuse.  The majority of spousal abuse are committed by men against women, as a result of the disparity in physical attributes as well as the historical gender roles.  In the matter of child abuse, men are less likely to agree with women about dishing out physical punishment to children.  It would be speculative to say this is a case of displacement of anger by women towards those who are even more vulnerable than them.

(Source: 2003 TGI  Brasil)

In the next chart, we show the incidences by socio-economic level, employment and education.  There are evidently different sets of attitudes by these socio-economic strata.  A more enlightened approach exists among the more affluent and better educated.  A Marxist would have probably said, "I told you so.  It is in the interest of the capitalist system to have the working class be brought up under a strict disciplinary system where they toil hard, ask no questions and never complain."  Thus, the truncheons of the boss's goon squad are just as irresistible and inexorable as the big open hands of the almighty parents.  Both are to be obeyed, since hard punishment will be doled out otherwise.

(Source: 2003 TGI  Brasil)

(posted by Roland Soong on 4/30/2004)

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