A study, which found that young children whose parents spank them perform better at school later on, isn’t winning high marks with child development experts.
The research, by Calvin College psychology professor Marjorie Gunnoe, found that kids smacked before age 6 grew up to be more successful, and that there was not enough evidence to say that smacking harms most kids, according to the London Daily Mail. But those who were smacked after age 6 were more likely than other kids to have behavioral difficulties, such as getting into fights, the Daily Mail reports.
Gunnoe, who interviewed 2,600 people about being smacked, told the Daily Mail: “The claims that are made for not spanking children fail to hold up. I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but then there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You don’t use it for all your jobs.”
Spanking is generally ineffective, says Tracy Dennis, associate professor of psychology at Hunter College. “I am not a personal proponent of spanking but there are many ways of doing it,” she explains. “I wouldn’t want parents to misinterpret these findings and think it’s okay to spank a child.”
Parenting guru Penelope Leach did not agree with Gunnoe’s research, according to the Daily Mail. “No good can come from hitting a child,” she says. “I do not buy this idea that children will learn positive behavior from being smacked.”
Why would young kids benefit from spanking while older kids were harmed by it, as Gunnoe’s research suggests?
Most parents spank young kids to keep them safe, Dennis explains. A parent may slap a toddler’s hand if they touch a hot stove, or spank a child who runs into the street. In that context, she says, a smack can be considered a way to keep a child out of danger or to assert parental authority, she says.
As a child grows older, parents may resort to spanking as a kind of default, Dennis says. “I suspect that these parents don’t have much of a repertoire of parenting strategies, or maybe those children have behavior problems so the parents are more inclined to smack them,” she says. “Smacking just makes things worse.”
And, she adds, “When a child is spanked when a parent loses control in an aggressive, fear-inducing way, this models aggression for the child and starts a cycle of violence in that child.”
Even timeouts, Dennis says, can have a detrimental effect on kids if imposed when a parent is out of control. “If you give your child a timeout because he or she broke a rule and you want there to be a consequence and you speak calmly, that is one thing,” Dennis says. “But if you are screaming and angry when you give the timeout, it’s not effective.”News by SoulRiser on January 10, 2010 @ 10:13 PM