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Is Spanking an Effective Discipline Method? Pediatricians Say No
  • “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is a commonly quoted proverb. But a survey done in the U.S. reveals pediatricians don’t approve of spanking as a discipline method for children. 

    Catherine Taylor, an associate professor at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, surveyed 1,500 pediatricians most of whom are practicing physicians for more than 15 years.

    “In the past couple of decades, a tremendous amount of research has come out that shows hitting children is counterproductive and leads to more harm than good,” Taylor states in a release.

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    Taylor’s research, published in the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, found that three out of four pediatricians say “spanking seldom or never results in positive outcomes for kids.

    “Seventy-four percent of the responding pediatricians did not approve of spanking and even more, 78 percent, thought spanking never or seldom improved children’s behavior.”

    With the study's results reflecting how pediatricians feel about corporal punishment, Taylor believes that there should be more conversations about spanking between parent and pediatrician. “Pediatricians are among the most trusted sources of credible advice that parents go to,” she says. “If pediatricians feel empowered more to speak up about this issue and talk to parents about it, we could start to see parents’ attitudes and behaviors shifting as well.” 

    Past research has shown that spanking ups the chances for anti-social behavior, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties in a child as she grows up. Psychological scientist Elizabeth T. Gershoff, the lead author of a study on spanking and behavioral problems, says her findings show that spanking “actually makes children's behavior worse, not better.”   

    On the other hand, some experts also argue that the adverse effects of spanking are difficult to study, let alone pinpoint with any certainty. “Like a lot of issues, it’s a lot more complicated than what you hear,” Christopher Ferguson, a psychologist at Stetson University, told Ozy. He adds that he “doesn’t believe the facts are clear about whether mild spanking is harmful for children in the long run.” 

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    As of December last year, 60 countries have made it illegal to spank children. Though there is no law that specifically bans corporal punishment in the Philippines, there is Republic Act 7610 or the Special Protection of Children Act, where cruelty is seen as child abuse. 

    Our Department of Justice Child Protection Program defines child abuse as “any act which inflicts physical or psychological injury, cruelty, or the neglect, sexual abuse of, or which exploits, a child,” and cruelty as “any word or action which debases, degrades or demeans the dignity of a child as a human being.”     

    Spanking isn’t the only discipline method a parent can utilize to teach good behavior. “Many parents have this fear that ‘If I don’t do this, they’ll never learn or they’ll be spoiled.’ But there are other ways of making sure a child isn’t spoiled,” says Ann Lagges, a psychologist at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.

    Find alternative discipline techniques recommended by parenting experts here.  

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