As a young child, my siblings and I would routinely turn on one another and resort to physical violence as a means of intimidation, punishment, and as a primal expression of untamed aggression. With your siblings, you never really knew what was coming, as physical aggression was about as random and unpredictable as childhood itself. However we were lucky, as our parents “spared the rod” (so to speak) and, while they yelled themselves blue, never laid a finger on us. This afforded us a great deal of emotional security (not quite appreciated at the time) in a household where slamming someone on the back of the head with a phonebook was considered a mode of disagreement.
So when I was unfortunate enough to witness friends being punished by their parents in a corporal way (spanking and slapping), it was both shocking and offensive to my pre-adolescent brain. With siblings it was war, sure, but with parents, no matter how insubordinate the behavior may have been, it was always as placid as Switzerland, at least it felt like it should have been.
According to data recently collected, approximately 72 percent of American parents think that corporal punishment is permissible when dealing with misbehaving children. Judging from this figure (along with supplemental supporting data) most children in this country, at one time or another, are on the receiving end of some form of corporal punishment. While many parents agree that a swift spanking will almost immediately curb and rein in some undesirable or unruly behavior, the lasting effect is proving to be much less desirable.
This month, in the Journal Pediatrics, a study led by Catherine Taylor of Tulane University revealed the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. “The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began increased by 50 percent,” says Taylor.