A review of various studies carried out by an international group of scientists and which has just been published in The Lancet is emphatic about the physical punishment of children. The review analyzed 69 studies, most of which were from the United States, with eight from other countries .
It does not appear effective in preventing behavior problems or promoting positive outcomes, and to top it off, it predicts increases in behavior problems and other poor outcomes over time.
No positive evidence
The team examined studies that involved physical punishment, such as spanking, and excluded any behavior that could constitute child physical abuse . The researchers found ample evidence to support a United Nations statement from the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommending that countries end the use of all forms of physical punishment on children.
As Elizabeth Gershoff, Amy Johnson McLaughlin Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences at the University of Texas at Austin and lead author of the study, concludes:
There is no evidence that corporal punishment is good for children. All the evidence indicates that corporal punishment is detrimental to the development and well-being of children.
Negative outcomes associated with physical punishment, such as behavior problems, occurred regardless of the child’s gender or ethnicity and regardless of the caregivers’ general parenting styles . The authors also found evidence that the magnitude of negative outcomes for children increased the more frequently corporal punishment was used.
Being able to educate and maximize the social and empathic values of a child, although they are partly standard, is not easy. As Jeremy Rifkin points out in his book The Empathic Civilization :
Naturally, punishing a child for a social transgression will almost always have the opposite effect to what is intended and will make the child less empathetic. The best way to develop the child’s empathic potential is through the use of induction, a method by which parents highlight the other’s point of view and make it clear that the child’s action has made them suffer […] Discipline by Induction works at this stage because the child begins to realize that others have internal states (emotions, desires, thoughts) that often differ from his own.