Keep That Rod Away!

A recent study published in The Lancet journal has further cemented a fact that we all know, but sometimes find hard to practise – that physically punishing children to enforce discipline is detrimental to their behaviour in the long run.

Researchers from the University College London (UCL) and an international team of experts looked at 69 studies from the United States, Japan, Turkey, China, Canada, Columbia, Greece, Switzerland and the United Kingdom, which involved punishments such as spanking.

The researchers found compelling evidence to prove that physical punishment made children’s behaviour worse over a period of time. Worldwide, 63 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 4 worldwide were regularly subjected to physical punishment.

Physical disciplining is increasingly being viewed as a harmful and illegal method and a violation of child rights. 63 countries have banned corporal punishment. In India, physical punishment is illegal in schools and can invite a fine and/or jail time. However, there is no such law governing physical punishment at home and most children are exposed to some form of corporal punishment.

A UNICEF report revealed that small children – those in the age group of 0-6, in India, suffer from various forms of punishment including spanking, being denied food, getting shouted at, shamed or other forms of physical abuse. Even newborns were subjected to certain forms of punishment.

However, as studies have shown, spanking has no positive consequences and may lead to mental health problems and aggressive behaviours in children.

Here is how corporal punishment harms:

  • The Lancet study shows that physical punishment intensifies the child’s problems over time

  • There is a dose-response relationship, which means that physical punishment increases in frequency and severity over time.

  • Studies have proven that physical punishment rises the chances of children indulging in violent behaviour. Persistent physical aggression would mean that children are unable to differentiate between right and wrong and thus could resort to violence if something does not go their way.

  • Spanking can hamper a child’s cognitive development, including their ability to make decisions, their memory and their self-control. When children are exposed to physical violence, their emotions take over their ability to think.

  • The negative impact of spanking may not be obvious immediately but can manifest over time.

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