Relationship Violence

According to new research published in the Journal of Pediatrics, using physical violence as a form of punishment against children can set them up for significant relationship violence in adulthood. It appears that the old adage “Spare the rod, spoil the child” is no longer entirely valid, according to certain groups.

This comprehensive study considered evaluated the behavior of 758 young adults between the ages of 19 and 20. These young adults were asked how frequently they had been subjected to corporal punishment such as spanking, slapping, or being struck by objects when they were children. Lead researcher and author Jeff Temple, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Unit, said that the results of the analysis indicate that adults who had experienced corporal punishment were more inclined to bring this violence into dating and relationships.

The study results were the same even when attributes such as ethnic background, parents’ education, sex, age, and abuse in childhood were taken out of the equation. The researchers defined child abuse as being hit by a belt or board-like object which led to noticeable bruises or a doctor/hospital visit.

Temple, who is a well-known specialist in dating and relationship brutality, further said that child abuse notwithstanding, spanking itself was enough to predict dating violence behaviors.

AAP Speaks Out Against Corporal Punishment

Corporal Punishment

The outcome of this recent study did not come as a surprise to Dr. Bob Sege, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatricians who specializes in the determent of childhood violence. The academy is fiercely against corporal punishment inflicted on a child for any reason, believing that striking children can lead to psychological disorders and violent behavioral patterns in adulthood.

Dr. Sege, who was not a part of this research initiative, states that the results of this study further strengthen previous research findings that children who experience violence at home are more prone to violent tendencies later in life, even if this kind of punishment is presented as being for their benefit.

He further added that children view their parents as the most important people in their lives and learn social etiquette and norms from them. Kids understand how to treat other people based on their parents’ behavior and actions. The demarcation between love and violence gets confusing for kids when they are struck, leading to them behaving similarly in adult relationships.

Emily Rothman, an associate professor at Boston University and a specialist in partner aggression, concurs that when children experience violence directed towards them, it raises the probability that they will resort to aggression when in fight or flight mode. Being physically punished by a parent can increase stress levels for a child and diminish their coping abilities, leading them to act out and be aggressive.

Prevalence of Spanking

Prevalence Of Spanking

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has defined corporal punishment as any punishment or physical violence aimed at causing pain or discomfiture, no matter how light. According to the committee, spanking or slapping is the most common form of corporal punishment, but the list also includes pinching, pulling hair, making a child sit in an uncomfortable position, burning, and forced ingestion of any substance such as soap.

The Committee believes that all forms of physical punishment inflicted on a child can be quite degrading, and as a result of its declaration, 53 nations have banned inflicting corporal punishment on children, even at home. According to the committee, another 56 governments are preparing to pass similar laws against corporal punishment.

In the United States, it is entirely legal for parents to inflict physical violence on their children to punish them, and many believe that this is the right thing to do. Starting in 1986, NORC (University of Chicago) has asked US residents whether they strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree that spanking is sometimes required to discipline a child. According to the latest results from 2016, 73.6 percent of Americans agree or strongly agree with corporal punishment as a means to discipline children.

Related: Mental Issues Associated with Spanking

Rothman states that this topic has been controversial for many years, with some sections of the nation, such as the South, subscribing more than others to the idea of corporal punishment. Rothman further highlights that religious fundamentalists strongly believe in corporal punishment and think of it as a parenting technique.


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