For hundreds of years, it has been customary for a child to receive a spank or slap as a form of discipline, one that parents of all cultures have used. Corporal punishment of a child by a parent or teacher has been legal in Canada since 1892, though 51% of Canadians believe that the use of corporal punishment does not reflect the attitude of Canada’s majority (Barnett). In recent years, corporal punishment has had more investigation, showing that, “corporal punishment by it’s nature can escalate into physical maltreatment” (Gershoff and Larzelere). Child abuse can be defined as “Physical, sexual, or emotional ill treatment or neglect of a child especially by those responsible for its welfare” (dictionary.com).
Child abuse researchers suggest that physical punishment increases a child’s chance of developing a mental illness, incites antisocial behaviour, and stunts intellectual growth. The psychological effects of corporal punishment directly influence to a child’s mental and emotional stability. Corporal punishment is permanently damaging to a child’s development, and should be considered child abuse. Corporal punishment increases a child’s chance of developing a debilitating mental illness, specifically those caused by internalising problems, such as depression and anxiety (Smith). By using Ivan Pavlov’s theory of Learned Reflexology, it can be deduced that the high anxiety levels of children who have been routinely punished by a physical means is caused by the expectation of being stricken.
It was “found that the stress of corporal punishment shows up as an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms such as being fearful that terrible things are about to happen and being easily startled”(ScienceDaily). Physical punishment produces a large amount of stress and feelings of hopelessness in a child, leading many adults who were corporally punished in childhood to develop anxiety-related mental illnesses. “According to Strauss (1999), mental health problems are associated with physical punishment due to their being an outcome of the suppression of childhood anger associated with being hit by adults who children depend on for love and nurturance”(Smith).
The main role of a guardian in a young child’s life is to protect and provide for the youth and, through corporal punishment, the child-parent relationship is damaged, producing children with antisocial tendencies. By using corporal punishment as a means of discipline, a child learns to distrust parents or other guardians, resulting in antisocial behaviour. When an adult the child trusts implements corporal punishment as a means of discipline, feelings of hostility and betrayal develop. This hostility is a result of the duplicity of a parent’s role to protect the child, causing many children to feel as though their parents and others dislike them.
Said an adult who had been physically punished for delinquent behaviour as a child, “My parents were very strict…I was basically very good and I was hit frequently…It made me go out and do the same thing again, what I’d been smacked for. The message I got from them when they hit me was not ‘what you’re doing is bad, don’t do it again’. The message I got was ‘we don’t love you’.”(Smith). When rule-enforcing figures disappear, delinquent behaviour emerges, suggesting, “that parental corporal punishment erodes the parent–child relationship and in turn decreases children’s motivation to internalize parents’ values and those of the society, which in turn results in low self-control (Hirschi, 1969)” (Gershoff). Corporal punishment does not stimulate reasoning skills in a child, resulting in low-self control, as mentioned, and thus a shorter span of cognitive ability.
Intellectual development begins when children are very young, and by using corporal punishment as a means of instruction, a child’s intellectual development is permanently damaged. A child that is spanked in the first grade is proven to score 5 IQ points lower than a child that was not spanked at all (Talawar, Carlson, and et al). Studies show that “[c]hildren in a school that uses corporal punishment performed significantly worse in tasks involving “executive functioning” – psychological processes such as planning, abstract thinking, and delaying gratification – than those in a school relying on milder disciplinary measures […]” (Talawar, Carlson, and et al ).
Executive functioning tasks require self-control, a skill that children who have been disciplined physically, as opposed to with reasoning and explanation, do not have. “Thus, poorer cognitive outcomes may result if parents who physically punish their children make less use of inductive methods of discipline, such as explanation and reasoning- procedures that are likely to enhance cognitive growth” (Smith). By contemplating the effect of an action and the whether or not the action is appropriate, children exercise executive functioning processes, which will give a child the skills to contemplate problems of academic or real-world nature. Corporal punishment has a permanent, negative effect on a child’s future mental stability, sociability, and intellectual potential.
The Canadian Human Rights Act says that, “the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for which a pardon has been granted”( RSC 1985, c H-6). The continuation of corporal punishment in modern society, “encourages a view of children as less worthy of protection and respect for their bodily integrity based on outdated notions of their inferior personhood” (Barnett).
51% of Canadians do not feel that the physical punishment of a child is right or just (Barnett), and believe that it should not be used as a parenting technique. Corporal punishment’s damaging effect on a child’s psychological well-being, both in child and adulthood, proves that it is a form of abuse. There are alternative parenting techniques that are proven to produce better results, and encourage the progress of a child’s development. “Children are one third of our population and all of our future,”(quotegarden.com). Should the future not have the right to the same amount of protection as their predecessors?
Barnett, Laura. Parlaiment of Canada. Law and Government Division. The “Spanking” Law: Section 43 of the Criminal Code. Ottawa: , 2008. Web. . “Children who are Spanked Have Lower IQs, New Research Finds.” ScienceDaily. 24 Sep 2009: n. page. Web. 23 Jan. 2012. . Gershoff, Elizabeth. “Corporal Punishment by Parents and Associated Child Behaviors and Experiences: A Meta-Analytic and Theoretical Review.” endcorporalpunishment.org. American Psychological Association, 2002. Web. 21 Jan 2012. . Gershoff, Elizabeth, and Robert Larzelere. “Is Corporal Punishment an Effective Means of
Discipline?.” American Psychological Association 26 06 2002. n.pag. American Psychological Association. Web. 23 Jan 2012.