Saturday, October 07, 2006

Spanking children not so harmful

Spanking research from New Zealand:
Smacking children does not necessarily make them more likely to become aggressive and antisocial, new local research shows.

Research by the Dunedin multidisciplinary health and development study shows children who are smacked lightly with an open hand on the bottom, hand or leg do much the same in later life as those who are not smacked, The New Zealand Herald reported today.

The study has followed 1000 children born in Dunedin in 1972-73. Later this year the findings, based on interviews when the subjects were 32-year-olds, will be published.

The project appeared to be the world's first long-term study to separate people who had merely been smacked with an open hand, lead author of the physical punishment part of the Dunedin study psychologist Jane Millichamp said.

"Study members in the 'smacking only' category of punishment appeared to be particularly high-functioning and achieving members of society," she said.

In terms of aggression, substance abuse, adult convictions and school achievement, this group had "similar or even slightly better outcomes" than those who were not smacked.

Dr Millichamp said the problem with a lot of studies was that they lumped a range of physical punishments together. She said she had not found any evidence that an occasional mild smack with an open hand on the clothed behind or the leg or hand was harmful or instilled violence in children.

Dr Millichamp acknowledged this was not a popular thing to say.

The findings undermine Green MP Sue Bradford's bill to repeal section 59 of the Crimes Act, which allows parents to use "reasonable force" to discipline children.
This is a funny subject. The good research consistently shows that spanking kids is at least as effective as any other method of discipline, and the vast majority of the public believes that parents should be able to use "reasonable force" to discipline children. Nevertheless, there are people who are ideologically opposed to spanking, and they cite studies that show that extreme child abuse is correlated with later bad behavior. Maybe so, but moderate spanking works.

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