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A Lifetime of Damage

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The purpose of this research report is to review the practice of corporal punishment in the home and the lasting harmful effects on the children involved. The research is based on the opinions and finding of professionals in mental health and child development and offers little to no support for the use of physical punishment. This research outlines several areas of a child's life that are acutely affected by the violent form of punishment called "spanking". Within our community I have seen first hand that children who are subjected to such punishment suffer emotional as well as physical harm. Loss of trust, confusion, damaged relationships; aggression, humiliation, depression as well as death occur in children disciplined with corporal punishment. This paper reports the findings of many national studies in an attempt to educate those who continue to advocate violence in the home.

A Lifetime of Damage

Research about corporal punishment and the effects on children has become increasingly important. In particular, child psychologists have studied how to recognise behaviours that may suggest violence in the home, allowing vital intervention. This research led psychologists to realise that the behaviours they were observing in young children were almost always carried with the child throughout life and affected future behaviour; causing delinquency with the law, drug and alcohol abuse and perpetrating abuse on others. This study began with a sense of urgency to find information and educate those who felt that spanking was an acceptable and effective form of punishment. Secondly this research was done in order to better understand the emotional health of children. Research pertaining to the detrimental effects of corporal punishment on a child's emotional and physical well being has shown that whether corporal punishment is used every day, once a week or once a month, there are lasting harmful effects to the children involved.

Some of the physical and emotional effects of parents using corporal punishment on their child can be seen immediately. Along with physical damage such as redness, swelling and bruises, there is also significant emotional damage. Loss of trust and confusion are immediate and very detrimental to a young child. There are also many consequences that remain hidden for years, which may cause these children to suffer from fear, aggression, and depression. The research on long-term effects of corporal indicate that there are specific types of behaviours are found primarily in children raised in homes where corporal punishment, or punishment inflicted upon their bodies was used. Even later in life as these children grew into young adults the lasting effects of physical punishment could still be seen. The association of love with violence that is learned through corporal punishment causes antisocial and violent behaviour later in life (Straus, 1994; Greven, 1991; Flynn, 1999). Children and spouses of individuals who were spanked have a much higher risk of being battered (Straus, 1994). According to a 1985 National Family Violence Survey published by Murray Straus, the risk of drug and alcohol abuse is also much higher in the population of children whose parents spanked them. The use of drugs and alcohol may create an escape for those individuals looking for a diversion from their traumatic memories of perceived rejection as children (Straus 1994). A child who is spanked not only absorbs the blows, but the message the blows convey, "You're worthless, I reject you!"

Murray Straus, author of Beating the Devil Out of Them, writes, "No one of us can show that anything bad happens if we do not hit children" (Straus, 2000, p.1). The messages that are conveyed to children through spanking are very confusing. The way spanking looks and feels must be confusing to a child when being administered by a parent who is supposed to be an example of what is right and good. Astrid Lindgren, author of Never Violence, states, "I think that too often we fail to feel situations from the child's point of view and that failure leads us to teach our children other than what we think we're teaching them" (Lindgren, 2000, p.1). When children are being spanked, they go into a state of emotional turmoil and cannot possibly learn the lessons adults claim they are trying to teach. Furthermore, parents tell their children that hitting is wrong and then they proceed to hit that same child. This behaviour sends the message that it is okay to do something wrong.

Although sometimes called "tough love" by parents, love is not the message being conveyed to children through spanking. One parent interviewed by Kelly Alexander recalls, "Having spanked her kids twice for what she calls, 'life-threatening behaviour'" (Alexander, 2000, p.96). Jordan Riak states, "Spanking does not teach kids that cars and trucks are dangerous, it teaches them that the grown-ups on who they depend are dangerous" (1992, p.3). When a parent strikes a child, the child is less able to look at the parent as a source of love, protection, and comfort. In the child's eyes the parent now appears to be the source of anger and pain. A damaged relationship between a parent and a child can be detrimental to healthy development for the child involved (Straus, 1994; Riak, 1992). Jordan Riak claims, "A child who is betrayed by a parent (through spanking) fails to mature optimally" (1992, p.4). As an example, when trust between a child and a parent is damaged, the child also lacks the ability to form trusting relationships with others. Children who have been threatened and spanked see honesty and truthfulness in others as weaknesses to be exploited, exactly as it was once done to them.

A two-year study reported by Kelly Alexander and published in 1997, found that children who were spanked regularly show more aggression and other antisocial behaviours such as cheating, lying, and bullying at the end of the research period rather than less. Charles Schaefer reported that physical punishment may; make children angry, hostile, fearful, teach that violence is a way to handle problems and teach that it's okay to vent anger by hurting others (1990). Every act of violence by an adult toward a child whether brief or mild, leaves a permanent emotional memory (Greven, 1991).

Child-rearing experts have discouraged not only spanking but also scolding in ways that might damage a child's self-esteem. Corporal punishment lowers self-esteem by degrading, dehumanising, and humiliating



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