Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Bogus theories of attachment and spanking

The NY Times reports:
It’s called attachment theory, and there’s growing consensus about its capacity to explain and improve how we function in relationships.

Conceived more than 50 years ago by the British psychoanalyst John Bowlby and scientifically validated by an American developmental psychologist, Mary S. Ainsworth, attachment theory is now having a breakout moment, applied everywhere from inner-city preschools to executive coaching programs. Experts in the fields of psychology, neuroscience, sociology and education say the theory’s underlying assumption — that the quality of our early attachments profoundly influences how we behave as adults — has special resonance in an era when people seem more attached to their smartphones than to one another.
Many psychologists say attachment theory as the most scientific thing in all psychology, but it is more like voodoo. See criticisms here and here.
The main idea of Bowlby's attachment theory can be summed up by the following, "...observation of how a very young child behaves towards his mother, both in her presence and especially in her absence, can contribute greatly to our understanding of personality development. When removed from the mother by strangers, young children respond usually with great intensity; and after reunion with her, anxiety or else unusual detachment" (Bowlby, 1969, p. 3).
That is an easy experiment that is supposed to have great significance, but 50 years of research has not proved much. The observations are supposed to have broad policy implications, but none have verified.

Furthermore, there is no proof of the nuture assumption that parents influence the personality of their kids.

But beliefs persist:
A new law in France bans spanking of children, making it the 52nd country to prohibit the practice. ...

A growing body of research suggests that spanking poses risks to children. A 2016 analysis of more than 50 years of research found that children who are spanked are more likely to defy their parents, develop mental health problems and show antisocial behavior and aggression.

Most countries in Europe now ban spanking, with the exception of the United Kingdom, Italy, Switzerland and the Czech Republic, the Telegraph said. The United States allows spanking.
Yes, and ppl who take aspirin are more likely to have headaches.

Correlation is not causation. Perhaps the defiance and anti-social behavior is causing the kids to get spanked. There are no good studies showing that any other method of discipline works better than spanking.

The anti-spanking zealots say that it is unethical to do a scientific study on spanking because it is unethical to ever hit a child. But there are twin studies, and they do not show any harm to spanking.

Of course most parents believe that they are profoundly influence their kids, and they may be right, but currently there is very little science to back up those beliefs.

Stefan Molyneux (Freedomain Radio) has another anti-spanking video to brag about the new French law. His position is that spanking violates his philosophical "non-aggression principle", as it is contrary to his utopian ideals of everyone of all ages living in peace and harmony thru rational judgment and mutual consent.

While he wants spanking to be illegal, he refuses to express an opinion on what the penalty should be. That is not the job of a philosopher like him, he says. He can say what is moral and what is not, but he is not concerned with the consequences.

Eg, if a 5yo kid wants to run out into the street, the parent is supposed to be persuasive enuf to non-violently explain the matter to the kid. I think that Molyneux's wife is some sort of psychotherapist, and psychotherapists say nonsense like that.

I like Molyneux's podcasts, but he is way off the deep end with this one. We live in a world where civilization depends on the use of force, and kids need to be prepared for the real world, not Molyneux's hypothetical philosophers libertarian paradise. And psychotherapists tend to make the worst parents.

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