There has been a lot of buzz lately regarding a study published in the Journal Pediatrics titled "Physical Punishment and Mental Disorders: Results From a Nationally Representative US Sample." The study looked at "the possible link between harsh physical punishment (ie, pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, hitting) in the absence of more severe child maltreatment (ie, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, exposure to intimate partner violence) and Axis I and II mental disorders." The study found that "harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatment is associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse/dependence, and personality disorders in a general population sample. These findings inform the ongoing debate around the use of physical punishment and provide evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders." The authors concluded, "from a public health perspective, study authors conclude reducing physical punishment may help decrease the prevalence of mental disorders in the general population."
This study is in line regarding the negative consequences of spanking with another one published in 2010 in the same journal. This study, "Mothers' Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children's Aggressive Behavior," found that "frequent use of corporal punishment (CP) (ie, mother's use of spanking more than twice in the previous month) when the child was 3 years of age was associated with increased risk for higher levels of child aggression when the child was 5 years of age."
These studies affirm the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stance on spanking which "strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. If a spanking is spontaneous, parents should later explain calmly why they did it, the specific behavior that provoked it, and how angry they felt. They also might apologize to their child for their loss of control. This usually helps the youngster to understand and accept the spanking, and it models for the child how to remediate a wrong."
If all of these studies are coming out showing the negative effects of spanking, how did thousands of kids (like myself) not succumb to these behaviors even though they were spanked? The first study mentioned is already generating controversy online.
If you're not supposed to spank your child, how are you to discipline them? The AAP has published on its website tips for effective discipline. They recommend that parents should practice "anticipatory guidance" through following routines. "Discipline is more than merely punishing improper behaviors – it’s teaching proper ones. Teaching desired behavior begins on a foundation of positive parenting that includes daily routines, praise for desired behavior, and a nurturing and understanding environment. Parents can then 1) communicate clear expectations, 2) show the children how to be successful, and 3) focus more attention on their child’s positive accomplishments than on perceived misbehavior. " They also talk about discipline strategies that work like "natural consequences, logical consequences, withholding privileges, and time-out."
I have to admit that disciplining a child is a difficult part of parenthood. I really don't want to spank my child but I have not been faced with a situation where I was at my wits end and my buttons were pushed to the limit. I think that making a plan ahead of time regarding how I would handle an escalating situation will help me avoid spanking. What do you think? What have you done to avoid spanking? Do you think spanking will really lead to the negative consequences mentioned in the two articles?