I heard a talk show recently on NPR about corporal punishment in children. The interviewer returned to one panelist and said, “So, in your opinion, physical punishment doesn’t work.” The panelist responded, “It’s not my opinion, it’s proven research.” Here is some more information from the New York Times.
It is now well accepted that physical discipline is not only less effective than other non-coercive methods, it is more harmful than has often been understood — and not just to children. A review of two decades worth of studies has shown that corporal punishment is associated with antisocial behavior and aggression in children, and later in life is linked to depression, unhappiness, anxiety, drug and alcohol use and psychological maladjustment. Beyond beating, parents can also hurt children by humiliating them, labeling them in harmful ways (“Why are you so stupid?”), or continually criticizing their behavior.
Improving the way people parent might seem an impossible challenge, given the competing views about what constitutes good parenting. Can we influence a behavior that is rooted in upbringing and culture, affected by stress, and occurs mainly in private? And even if we could reach large populations with evidence-based messages the way public health officials got people to quit smoking, wear seat belts or apply sunscreen, would it have an impact?
That’s what was explored in South Carolina in recent years, and the answer appears to be yes. With funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a parenting system called the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, which was developed at the University of Queensland, Australia, was tested in nine counties across the state. Eighteen counties were randomly selected to receive either a broad dissemination of Triple P’s program or services as usual. The results were both highly promising and troubling.
Learn more about the Triple P program at The Benefits of Positive Parenting – NYTimes.com.
Keep in mind that corporal punishment is a common parenting practice used in cultures around the world, throughout history. The roots of bullying are deep.