"We know more now, we know better, and that means we can change." Picture: PxHere

In the third part of our positive parenting online series, we unpack the myths surrounding spanking and the effects it has well into adulthood.

This week Carol Bower, director of the Peace Centre, discusses the negative consequences associated with corporal punishment.

"Many of us grew up with corporal punishment. We want to believe that our parents loved us and wanted what was best for us. We say things like: 'I got hidings as a child; it didn’t do me any harm'. 

"We believe there is a big difference between child abuse and corporal punishment used as discipline and think that if it is done in a measured and loving way, it does more good than harm if you are an otherwise loving parent.

"But, for every person who says it did them no harm, there is at least one other person who says the opposite. And there is a growing body of credible research that also says the opposite. This does not mean that our parents were bad, horrible people (or that we are, if we spank our children). It’s just that we know more now, we know better, and that means we can change. 

"Research has shown that corporal punishment does have one positive outcome: the short-term benefit of immediate compliance. But the research also shows that corporal punishment does not teach self-discipline. 

"And that it has a whole range of very negative effects. This is true even of the so-called 'little smacks'. They have been found to have a negative effect on neurological, physical, behavioural, cognitive, emotional and social development outcomes."

Negative consequences include:

  • Physical injuries and sometimes, death;
  • Aggression, increased delinquency and criminality, anti-social behaviour in childhood and adulthood, and propensity in adulthood to abuse their spouse and children;
  • Decreased moral internalisation and self-discipline;
  • Decrease in the quality of the parent-child relationship, and in mental health in childhood and adulthood; heightened levels of mood and anxiety disorders and depression in childhood and adulthood;
  • Poorer cognitive and intellectual outcomes, due largely to permanent damage to neural structure and functioning of the brain itself.
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