What if today a teacher threw an eighth grade boy into a locker for clearly being disrespectful? Or a principal, having found a young student in possession of cigarettes, pulled the student into his office and gave him three good “whacks” with a paddle that hangs on his wall? There was a time, not too long ago, when this acceptable and even expected. Today and throughout history, corporal punishment is advocated or condemned and, according to M.L. Tatum, a Doctoral candidate from The University of Southern Mississippi, it has been the cause of numerous controversies based on the ethics, morality, legality, and efficacy of its use (“Principals’ Perception”). Corporal punishment is so widespread that it is part of growing up for most children in most countries of the world (Straus 1994). Even though it appears to be happening more frequently and in more places, overall corporal punishment does not deliver effectively any long-term positive behavior.
Several studies report the negative effects of corporal punishment on children. In separate experiments conducted by M.Gootman, J.R. Cryan, and T.L. Rose, all expert authors on the topic, it was concurred that there was no conclusive evidence supporting the use of corporal punishment. They agreed that the potential for it to be physically and emotionally damaging to the student clearly existed. Gootman and G. Kessler, author of “Spanking in School: Deterrent or Barbarism” from Childhood Education magazine, advocated that corporal punishment had not reduced undesirable student behavior. They suggested that if it did, the same discipline problems would not have reoccurred. The NEA task force on corporal punishment reported physical punishment was an ineffective way to maintain order, indicating it usually had to be repeated over and over (“National Education” ). R.S.Sprick, who wrote Discipline in the Secondary Classroom: A Problem By Problem Survival Guide, argued that the child who was most likely to warrant corporal punishment was the child least likely to learn from it. In fact, paddling was considered by most students a small price to pay for doing what they wanted (Gootman, Kessler, and Sprick).
A study by Straus and Kantor (1994) found that children who experienced corporal punishment in adolescence, had an increased risk later of depressive symptoms, suicidal thoughts, alcohol abuse, physical abuse of children and wife beating.
To test the hypothesis of whether corporal punishment has neutral effects on long-term behavior in which spanking is culturally accepted, Slade and Wissow (2004) conducted a national longitudinal study. To ascertain whether spanking infants and toddlers is associative with behavior problems after four years, a large-scale study was conducted with mothers and their children. A statistical analysis included 1,966 Black, White, and Hispanic children ranging in age from 0 to 24 months. The researchers used two indicators of behavior problems: (a) the mother’s rating of her child’ s behavior problems exceeding a threshold score on the Child Behavior Index, and (b) whether the mother was asked to meet with the school representative to discuss her child’s behavior. Slade and Wissow used data that was collected from 1979 – 1998. The initial screening interviews included participants from 75,000 households, with the households of Blacks, Hispanics, and economically disadvantaged Whites being over represented. To select the respondents a multistage stratified area probability sample was used. The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Mother-Child Sample (NLSY-MC) started administering supplemental interviews in 1986 to all female respondents who had children and continued every two years. Of the 4,845 respondents who qualified for the study, 2,879 were excluded for various reasons including failure to provide reports, and failure to complete follow-up interviews. The results of the test showed significant differences between the three groups surveyed. White non-Hispanic children who were spanked five times in a week had a greater risk of developing behavior problems that required a parent-teacher meeting four years later. They were also at greater risk of their mothers’ describing them as children with behavioral problems after four years. Among Hispanic and Black children, spanking frequency before age two was not associated with child behavior problems four years later. Additionally, results suggested there was a positive association with spanking and behavior for these children. The researcher concluded that spanking children younger than two years old appears to be linked to behavior problems only in white non-Hispanic families. This finding is consistent with studies of older children. The researchers cautioned that other factors such as parent-child attitudes and parent level of distress could influence how parents and their children perceive spanking. Subsequently, these factors could have an effect on the child’s behavior.
…(to be continued)…
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