"A Strong Natural Tendency To Escalate": How Mild Spanking Can Lead To Child Abuse

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Alan Kazdin at Slate has one more reason not to hit your kids: it may be (sort of) addictive. That is, just as the occasional cigarette can lead to a smoking habit, "there's a strong natural tendency to escalate the frequency and severity of punishment." In fact, more than a third of parents who use corporal punishment "end up crossing the line drawn by the state to define child abuse: hitting with an object, harsh and cruel hitting, and so on." That's in part because kids (the crafty little bastards) adapt to each punishment, making parents more likely to choose harsher ones. And, in the short term, hitting your kid may seem to work.Kazdin writes that corporal punishment usually does stop bad behavior temporarily. Even though it's not an effective deterrent in the long term — kids will misbehave just as much as before — what parents remember is that brief moment when a child quit screaming or cursing or peeling the wallpaper off the wall. And if they don't perceive hitting as a problem, they're unlikely to pay attention to studies that say otherwise. Repeated corporal punishment is bad for kids' development — they have worse impulse control and poorer health as adults. So should we ban hitting kids (note: the man pictured above is testifying in favor of such a ban)? Kazdin points out that these bans can be effective, both in reducing corporal punishment and in actually improving children's behavior. He also writes that the US is in some ways way behind the rest of the world in children's rights — only the United States and Somalia have yet to ratify the U.N.'s Convention on the Rights of the Child. One reason for this is that Americans want to preserve parental authority, including the decision to spank or not to spank. Should this decision be a parent's to make? Or, given the evidence, should we let the U.N. make it for us? Spare the Rod [Slate] Earlier: America: Land Of The Free, Home Of The Spank Researchers: Spanking Can Lead To Sexual Deviancy



My mom beat the crap out of me and my sister with all kinds of implements—fly swatters, yard sticks, belts, you name it. This was the 70s, so she was tripped out on valium and too much sunbathing, I suppose. Fast forward to hippiechick, born in 1991. She got spankings, too, but I reserved them for really bad stuff. And I can tell you how many times I spanked her—about five. She got a swat for running into the street at age 3, and that was the last one. So, I was spanked, turned out pretty much OK, and didn't develop into a maniacal spanker myself.