In 2009, an article in peer-reviewed journal NeuroImage revealed how spanking harms the brain of children. It observed that children who experienced harsh corporal punishment (HCP) such as spanking may have problems with brain development, specifically in the prefrontal cortical region. Moreover, a study conducted in 2010 that appeared in the journal Pediatrics found that there is indeed an association between spanking and a kid’s bullying tendencies, identifying the former as one of the factors that make kids bullies or victims.
Harmful Practice of Parents
A nationwide survey conducted in 2012 by Child Tends — a nonpartisan research center — disclosed that more than 50% of women and about 75% of men in the United States were in favor of spanking children as a form of punishment. This is despite the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly being against such ways of child discipline.
To give a better view at how alarming this issue is, children who get spanked by their parents at the age of three could have increased levels of aggression in as early as two years. This was the surprising finding of the 2010 Pediatrics article which had over 2000 mothers participating in the study.
In addition, those who received regular spanking had less gray matter in the prefrontal cortical region of the brain. This particular area is responsible for the regulation of behavior and decision-making, both in the short and long-term aspects. The quantity of gray matter is associated with depression, IQ, and most importantly with the capacity to control oneself.
By disciplining children for the sake of self-control, the materials needed for it become damaged in the process. It only goes to show that HCP such as spanking affects kids’ brain and behavior, albeit in a negative manner.
Scientific Evidence Against Punishment
Due to the effects of spanking on kids’ brains, a child who is just coming to terms with the complexity of the world and one’s position in it — in a process called cognitive decentring — will easily get influenced even by the slightest actions. While a strategy called conditional spanking has been considered beneficial to solving antisocial behavior, 87% of over 100 studies collected by Family Research Director co-director Murray Straus is still scientifically sufficient for people to be confident against corporal punishment.
The hard, scientific affirmation of the undesirable impact of corporal punishment, yet the majority of parents are unwilling to change their stand on the issue. 43 nations, such as Brazil and Uruguay, even have laws safeguarding children from any and all forms of corporal punishment. Aside from this, they seem to have lower cases of mental health disorders.
But in the United States, 19 states still legally allow public schools to practice corporal punishment, the Center for Effective Discipline reveals. This means that teachers and principals in these areas can hit their students instead of simply giving them detention.
Straus noted that for every three cases of physical abuse recorded in the United States, two of them have spiralled out of control from spanking at first.
However, is the kid’s health really a significant factor to forming an aggressive behavior? There are indeed cases of children growing properly into adulthood despite having been spanking, but long-term research that takes a look at a relatively large population throughout time supports the contrary.
Murray Straus suggests that spanking could lead to the belief that physical punishment is acceptable as long as it is used to teach a lesson. Moreover, it could worsen kid’s violence because children might consider doing harmful things to others — such as bullying — as long as no one is around to punish them. They would be more likely to develop aggression towards their parents, partners, friends, and even their own children.
The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry noted that physical punishment can result in a child’s low self-esteem and aggression. This can result to having bullied kids.
How can the detrimental long term effects of spanking and bullying be solved?
Even if a child experiences corporal punishment including spanking, some studies suggest that recovery can be attained as long as the parents themselves stop their practices. This means that the mother and the father should change their ways of disciplining.
Moreover, going to a more favorable environment such as a playground is a simple yet effective solution. It is an area that addresses both the social and physical health of children. According to PlaygroundEquipment.com, it allows them to positively interact with other kids in a relatively safe place, without having to be distracted by game consoles and other forms of modern entertainment.
Being physically active prevents a child from being obese, but what does that have to do with the effects of bullying?
For one, a study conducted by the University of Michigan revealed that a child can still be a victim of bullying even with the proper social and academic skills, just for being obese. Additionally, obese children have a 65% greater likelihood of being bullied, compared to physically healthy kids.
Aside from this, playing improves motor skills and the rate of cognitive, emotional, and social development. In this regard, playgrounds are essential to children because this is where they get better in many aspects early on, with experts noting its benefits towards curbing cases of bullying.
Family Play and Relaxation
Children are not the only ones who benefit from being in playgrounds, as mothers and fathers alike can choose to relax with their kids, away from the stress of daily responsibilities. Families can even play sports, allowing for some healthy social interaction which will improve relationships over time.
Indeed, spanking and other forms of harsh corporal punishment still abound in today’s society, but it doesn’t mean that the findings of hundreds of studies are meaningless. One by one, parents — and people, in general — will be enlightened by the scientific evidence highlighting the overall bad effects of spanking and bullying. They could result in aggressive behavior, depression, and even addiction. On the other hand, there is no harm in acknowledging the practicality of conducting prosocial family activities such as playing and relaxing together.