Spanking – the Real Lesson it Teaches

Corporal punishment is a widely accepted practice in the United States. Up to 90% of parents report using it with their children. A recent article appeared on Monday, February 6, in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The article summarizes the analysis of two decades of research on the long-term effects of physical punishment.

The article’s conclusions are very strongly worded. They are: spanking or slapping stops behavior in the short-term – and only in the short term. Over the long-term, physical punishment increases aggression and leads to other negative behaviors and outcomes. This conclusion was reached after examining 20 years of published research on the impact of corporal punishment.

The research demonstrates physical punishment makes children more aggressive and antisocial, and can lower a child’s IQ. Fear of physical punishment can increase a child’s tendency to lie. Over the long term, it can lead to depression, anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse. The strong consistency within the research shows no evidence that corporal punishment may have a positive influence on developing children’s behavior or character.

Some people point out that children who are spanked might already be aggressive, which was why they got spanked in the first place. Research has demonstrated spanking or slapping does not reduce aggression; it increases it. The research demonstrated that those who were not spanked became less aggressive over time.

These results show why physical punishment should never be used with an adopted child. Adopted children have already experienced the traumatic loss of their family and homeland. They have likely witnessed or been victim of abuse or neglect. Adopted children may already demonstrate a reduction in brain development, an increase in anxiety, and aggressive behavior. Given the research that clearly demonstrates physical punishment will also harm a child in these ways, why would a parent ever consider using physical punishment with an adopted child?

In addition to the long-term effects on the individual child, many adopting parents worry about the attachment between them and their adopted child. A strong attachment early in life makes it easier to maintain the parent/child bond through the storms of adolescence, ensures that children become adults who can regulate their own emotions, and decreases the odds of a child developing high risk behaviors, like drug or alcohol use, sexual promiscuity, stealing, etc.

The adopting parent will use consistency, warmth, nurturing food, and many other techniques to develop an attachment with their adopted child. Forming a solid attachment is a long-term, constant process throughout the lifespan of the adopted child. Physical punishment can permanently disrupt the attachment process, in addition to the additional risks listed above.

MLJ Adoptions offers a fantastic class to help any parent who is interested in learning alternatives to physical punishment, especially for families interested in or involved with international adoption:

Creative Discipline Techniques for Adoptive Families – Sometimes parenting requires a little creativity, and it often requires new ideas. Several strategies to help positively manage behavior while continuing to focus on your child’s emotional and attachment needs will be explained and demonstrated in this course. How adults unintentionally encourage misbehavior will also be discussed. This class is appropriate for parents with children of all ages and is taught by Elizabeth Nelson, MSW $40 (If you are a MLJ Client you can sign up on your client care page for free!)

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.