Spanking new – a study that shows how we harm our children if we go easy on the smacking

A big hat-tip to Whale Oil for drawing Alf’s attention to something vital he missed in The Telegraph.

It’s the glorious news that social scientists have produced data giving strength to the old adage about sparing the rod and spoiling the child.

As The Telegraph reports –

Research suggests children who are smacked when young are more successful later in life.

A study found that youngsters smacked up to the age of six did better at school and were more optimistic about their lives than those never hit by their parents.

They were also more likely to undertake voluntary work and keener to attend university, experts discovered.

The Telegraph quite rightly expects the research, conducted in the United States, to anger children’s rights campaigners who have unsuccessfully fought to ban smacking in Britain.

Currently, parents are allowed by law to mete out “reasonable chastisement” on their children, providing smacking does not leave a mark or bruise. These limits were clarified in the 2004 Children’s Act.

But children’s groups and MPs have argued that spanking is an outdated form of punishment that can cause long-term mental health problems.

The study was undertaken by a Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

She is quoted as saying her study showed there was insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to determine how their children should be punished.

She said: “The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data.

“I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don’t use it for all your jobs.”

The survey questioned 179 teenagers about how often they were smacked as children and how old they were when they were last spanked.

Their answers were then compared with information they gave about their behaviour that could have been affected by smacking.

This included negative effects such as anti-social behaviour, early sexual activity, violence and depression, as well as positives such as academic success and ambitions.

Those who had been smacked up to the age of six performed better in almost all the positive categories and no worse in the negatives than those never punished physically.

Teenagers who had been hit by their parents from age seven to 11 were also found to be more successful at school than those not smacked but fared less well on some negative measures, such as getting involved in more fights.

However, youngsters who claimed they were still being smacked scored worse than every other group across all the categories.

Little difference was found in the results between sexes and different racial groups.

So how do the do-gooders react to these sorts of data?

By denying them, of course.

The findings were rejected by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which has fought to ban smacking.

A spokesman for the charity said: “The NSPCC believes that children should have the same legal protection from assault as adults do.

“Other research has shown that smacking young children affects their behaviour and mental development, and makes them more likely to be anti-social.”

But Parents Outloud, a pressure group with a healthier view on not sparing the rod, welcomed the research, saying parents should not be criminalised for mild smacking.

Its spokeswoman, Margaret Morrissey, said: “It is very difficult to explain verbally to a young child why something they have done is wrong.

“A light tap is often the most effective way of teaching them not to do something that is dangerous or hurtful to other people – it is a preventive measure.

“While anything more than a light tap is definitely wrong, parents should be allowed the freedom to discipline their children without the fear that they will be reported to police.”

The article quotes a slab from the Sunday Times, which went to Aric Sigman, a psychologist and author of The Spoilt Generation: Why Restoring Authority will Make our Children and Society Happier.

He said –

“The idea that smacking and violence are on a continuum is a bizarre and fetishised view of what punishment or smacking is for most parents.

“If it’s done judiciously by a parent who is normally affectionate and sensitive to their child, our society should not be up in arms about that. Parents should be trusted to distinguish this from a punch in the face.”

Alf is a splendid example of a bloke who has been spoiled by insufficient application of a parental rod.

Sure, he copped the occasional whack, as a child. But not enough.

Otherwise – he is sure – he probably would be strutting the political stage today as our prime minister.

6 Responses to Spanking new – a study that shows how we harm our children if we go easy on the smacking

  1. PDeverit says:

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  2. PDeverit says:

    The vast majority of experts agree that child buttock-battering isn’t healthy. Only a marginal number (mostly religious Fundamentalists) think child bottom-slapping is good for them.

  3. Alf Grumble says:

    Alf’s astute readers will have observed that PDeverit needed to take two goes at responding to my post. Presumably he/she wasn’t appropriately disciplined as a child with a bit of spanky-panky. Otherwise (according to the survey that prompted the post) he/she would be a bit smarter and would have responded succinctly with a one-hit rejoinder.

  4. DJ Blur says:

    I love it Grand Rapids!

  5. Hmm, your blog looked totally ugly on my iphone, but now It’s OK 🙂 How did you fix it?

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