A new policy statement has just been released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) urging parents not to use physical punishment and verbal abuse on their children. In the policy statement (https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/AAP-Says-Spanking-Harms-Children.aspx), they cited evidence linking corporal punishment to increased aggression amongst children as well as an increased risk of other types of negative behavior.
The organization stated that corporal punishment, which includes harsh verbal abuse, can change the brain of a child. In the release, they said, “research has shown that striking the child, yelling at or shaming them can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brains architecture”. The APP further stated that young adults who had endured a significant amount of physical punishment when they were young showed visible changes to the brain imaging and there was also higher levels of cortisol hormone which is normally associated with toxic stress.
While there has been an overall decline in the use of corporal punishment in the United States, there are still a large percentage of parents that believe this form of punishment is effective at teaching and disciplining their children. According to a survey taken in 2004, roughly 2/3 of parents that had young children reported using physical punishment as a way to discipline. However, in a more recent survey, there is a greater decline in parents that support physical punishment as a form of discipline, and this is more noticeable amongst young parents.
One of the most common arguments that parents who support corporal punishment use, is that when they were young, their parents used physical punishment as a way to teach them and they turned out fine. However, according to Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, who is a pediatrician in California, when parents use physical punishment, their children view themselves as victims and automatically switch off, so they don’t really learn anything.
In another study that was reported by the APP, corporal punishment was associated with physical dating violence during adolescence, and there is also a higher risk of substance abuse and mental health disorders.
A Better Approach
The APP advises parents to completely avoid corporal punishment, especially during situations where they are angry or if it is a planned response to deal with any type of misbehavior. Instead, they advise parents to use other types of positive and effective parenting strategies to discipline their children such as implementing positive reinforcements, redirecting, setting limits and future expectations.
A Call to Ban Corporal Punishment in Schools
The American Academy of Pediatrics has also strengthened their call to completely ban corporal punishment in the United States. This move started in the year 2000, where they asked all of the states to completely abolish corporal punishment in their schools. Currently, 53 countries have abolished this practice after the United Nations Convention of Rights of the Child had called on its members to ban corporal punishment in 1989. In the US, however, 19 states still allow corporal punishment in their schools.
Dr. Ryan Brown, who is a board certified pediatrician and also a member of the American Academy of pediatrics counsel on child abuse and neglect, said that he doesn’t believe parents are getting soft, but rather, that they are becoming smarter in the ways they are disciplining their children.
This is been a hot debate for many years amongst parents and teachers, and it will most likely continue for a while. Many parents feel that they should have the right to decide how to bring up their own children and any outside intervention is an attack on these rights. On the other side of the fence are those that believe that while parents should have a right to bring up their children in the way they know best, children have rights too, and sometimes it is necessary for outside intervention to protect these rights.