Research shows a 93% agreement that spanking is harmful. Spanking is consistently linked to increased behavioral problems, increased aggression and defiance, and lower moral internalization. It is also linked to an increased risk of mental illness in adolescence, drug and alcohol abuse, and a greater likelihood of domestic violence into adulthood.

The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic

In 2018 Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminology at Hamline University (Minnesota), and James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metro State University (Minnesota), began a new research project which has recently been published, called “The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic.” 

They confirmed that in the U.S., “mass shooters overwhelmingly fit a certain profile….. There’s this really consistent pathway [a mass shooter takes.] Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home [corporal punishment], sexual assault, parental suicides, or extreme bullying, which means it’s possible to identify and treat them before they commit violence. “

Translation: corporal punishment has a fundamental role in creating mass school shooters. If we want to really address the underlying causes of these continuing tragedies, we have to go beyond the gun control arguments and change the violent childhood environment prevalent in our corporal punishment society.

The WHO: Corporal punishment and health

  • Corporal or physical punishment is highly prevalent globally, both in homes and schools. Around 60% of children aged 2–14 years regularly suffer physical punishment by their parents or other caregivers. In some countries, almost all students report being physically punished by school staff. The risk of being physically punished is similar for boys and girls, and for children from wealthy and poor households.
  • Evidence shows corporal punishment increases children’s behavioural problems over time and has no positive outcomes.
  • All corporal punishment, however mild or light, carries an inbuilt risk of escalation. Studies suggest that parents who used corporal punishment are at heightened risk of perpetrating severe maltreatment.
  • Corporal punishment is linked to a range of negative outcomes for children across countries and cultures, including physical and mental ill-health, impaired cognitive and socio-emotional development, poor educational outcomes, increased aggression and perpetration of violence.
  • Corporal punishment is a violation of children’s rights to respect for physical integrity and human dignity, health, development, education and freedom from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
  • The elimination of violence against children is called for in several targets of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development but most explicitly in Target 16.2: “end abuse, exploitation, trafficking and all forms of violence against and torture of children”.
  • Corporal punishment and the associated harms are preventable through multisectoral and multifaceted approaches, including law reform, changing harmful norms around child rearing and punishment, parent and caregiver support, and school-based programming

Harvard GSE: The Effect of Spanking on the Brain

Research has long underscored the negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development, but new research, published this month, shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.

“The findings are one of the last pieces of evidence to make sense of the research of the last 50 years on spanking,” says researcher Jorge Cuartas, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who coauthored the study with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues. With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.”

The study, “Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children,” published in Child Development, examined spanked children’s brain functioning in response to perceived environmental threats compared to children who were not spanked. Their findings showed that spanked children exhibited greater brain response, suggesting that spanking can alter children’s brain function in similar ways to severe forms of maltreatment.

Harvard GSE: The Consequences of Corporal Punishment

Despite the adverse effects of physical punishment on a child’s development, including increased antisocial behavior and higher risks of depression and other mental health problems, only 53 countries have outright banned the practice. In fact, in Colombia, a country that has been rocked with civil conflict for over half a century, corporal punishment continues to be seen by many as an acceptable punishment for children.

It was unclear just how pervasive corporal punishment in Colombia was until education Ph.D. student Jorge Cuartas made it his mission to shine a light on the practice in his home country and work to ban its use. An economist, Cuartas was a research assistant examining the impact of the Colombian Civil War on displaced citizens when he began to trace the connection between violence occurring at the national level and violence impacting children.

Keep that rod away': Dangers of corporal punishment on kids

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.

WebMD: Science Again Says Spanking Hurts Kids Long Term

Update: On February 18, 2019, the American Psychological Association joined other organizations saying that parents should find alternatives to spanking and other physical forms of discipline. 

Nov. 14, 2018 — The first place Mary Katherine Backstrom went after being displaced from her Florida home for 3 weeks by a hurricane in 2017 was the grocery store. Her first-responder husband was working, and she and her 2-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter were tired, stressed, and hungry. But there was no food in the house.

She rushed through an abbreviated shopping list and made it to the checkout line. But then the family’s favorite bagger gave her children balloons, and her daughter instantly and accidentally let hers go. As it floated to the ceiling, Backstrom says, her children dissolved into screams and cries, which she found less than ideal but completely understandable given the circumstances.

First Impressions: Exposure to Violence and a Child’s Developing Brain

Corporal Punishment in Schools and its Effect on Academic Success

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