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Does Spanking Lead Child Abuse?

     Were you spanked as a child? Do you think spanking effected you? Every parent has been in a situation where a good spanking seems like the only way to put an end to little Junior’s temper tantrum. Parents use a number to reasons, some you may have heard, to use spanking as a form of discipline. They may say “Spare the rod and spoil the child.” Or “I was spanked and I turned out okey.” Even “Kids need spanking to show them who’s boss.”

The issue I wish to present is whether or not spanking leads to a rise in child abuse and later violence. Do children who are spanked or physically punished see spanking as a violent act? Do they learn to see violence as an acceptable way to solve a problem? When parents spank their children are they guiding them or controlling them?

Nancy Samalin, author of Love and Anger, believes that spanking is nothing more than a big person hitting a smaller person and it can do damage to your child’s conscious. “A child who obeys because of the fear of being spanked,” she explains “is most likely not to develop a sense of right or wrong without being policed by a more powerful authority figure.” (Samalin, p. 154). She believes that spanking the child you have not set an example that you want your child to follow in the future. New studies have shown that children who are abused by their parents physically, emotionally, or sexually grow up and become abusive parents themselves. Further studies have shown that children who are physically punished lack empathy and concern that helps them care for others.

A public opinion poll conducted by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse in 1994 asked parents how they disciplined their children in the previous year. Denying privileges was used by 79 percent of the parents; confinement to a room was used by 59 percent; 49 percent spanked or hit their children; and 45 percent insulted or swore at their children. What was amazing about these statistics was that 51 percent did not spank their children. Now consider the rise in child abuse cases that has caused public-health officials scrambling for an explanation blaming spanking made sense. Trouble is, while spanking is down, child abuse is still up. Joan McCord, author of “Questioning the Value of Punishment,” believes that punishment in general is the reason for the increase in child abuse and violence.

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She found that neglected, abused, rejected, as well as those physically punished tend to become antisocial. Many childhood development experts suggest that reasoning, talking, and listening to children work well in teaching what is right and wrong.

According to University of New Hampshire sociologist Murray Straus “when parents use corporal punishment to reduce [antisocial behavior], the long-term effect tends to be opposite.” (Time, p 65). He also suggests that sparing the rod will help reduce overall levels of violence in America. Stratus found that children whose parents spanked them, when compared to those not spanked, were more aggressive, had higher rates of juvenile delinquency, had higher rates of spousal abuse, had lower economic achievement, and showed higher drug and alcohol abuse rates. “By spanking,” he claims, “parents model the norm of violence and legitimizes it as a way to solve problems.” (Straus, p127). In proving his claim Straus collected information from phone interviews conducted by the United States Bureau of Labor. Statistics started in 1979 with 807 mothers with children ages six to nine. They were asked how many times they had spanked their children in the past week and what the child’s behavior was like- did they lie, cheat, steal, act up in school? Two years later the same group was polled again and sure enough, the children who had been spanked had become antisocial. However in looking at the statistics more closely, Dr. Den Trumbull, a pro-spanking devotee, found that the mothers ranged in the age from 14 to 24. Those who spanked did so on an average of twice a week. He also observed that the limiting the age to six to nine years old misrepresented the results. By the age of six to nine the children can understand the consequences of their actions. For them physical punishment, such as spanking, is more likely to be more humiliating and traumatizing. “These factors,” says Trumbull, “plus the fact that some of the kids were as old as nine are markers of a dysfunctional family in the mind and in the minds of most psychologist and pediatricians.” (Time, p. 67). According to Trumbull, many other studies have shown that physical punishment is effective and not harmful to childhood development if it is restricted to children between 18 months to 6 years of age. Children between these ages have poor understanding of the consequences of their behavior. He also suggests that spanking should be only as a last resort. After putting the child on a “time-out” then warn him or her that the next “act up” will bring on a whack on the bottom.

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