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The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment are in the Best Interests of the Child

Jason M. Fuller, author

According to a higher court criminal judge of Germany, such literature as this is neither distributed in the universities or even the courts of Germany. To counter such prejudice and narrow-mindedness, we make a link available to it here. Download this important Akron Law Review article (Volume 42, Number 243, 2009).

Quote from the Introduction

“Anti-spanking laws are proposed and passed with the hope that they will create a “cultural spillover” of non-violence, and a society that does not need correction.1 For instance, when Italy’s Supreme Court declared spanking unlawful, it said the very expression “correction of children” was both “culturally anachronistic and historically outdated.”

“While such lawmaking may seem harmless, even commendable, the empirical data indicate that a spanking ban is a grave mistake. With spanking bans have come increased rates of child abuse,2 aggressive parenting, and youth violence.3 Indeed, criminal records suggest that children raised under a spanking ban are much more likely to be involved in crime than other children.

“This makes sense. To function well in society, children need to learn that misbehavior has negative consequences.4 But not every child learns this the same way. If one child learns best about misbehavior through physical punishment, he should receive a spanking. If another learns this best through mental punishment,5 she should get a timeout. To keep any helpful discipline method from a child may restrict his ability to mature, and could make him an unnecessary burden on society.

“Yet many people want to deprive children of spanking, even though the most sound research suggests it is not harmful, and is often more helpful than other common discipline methods. On average, spanking seems to reduce aggression, defiance, and antisocial behavior better than mental punishments like timeout, reasoning, privilege removal, threats, verbal power assertion, ignoring, love withdrawal, or diverting.6

(Some references omitted. There are hundreds of useful references in this review.)

Table of Contents

I. Introduction

…………………………………………………….244

II. Background: The Movement to Gradually Eliminate Spanking in the Home

…………………………………………………….249

A. The Movement to Change Public Opinion

…………………………………………………….249

B. How Foreign Governments Are Gradually Outlawing Corporal Punishment

…………………………………………………….252

C. The U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child Is Being Used to Abolish Spanking Worldwide

…………………………………………………….256

D. America Is Following the Incremental Path that Leads to a Ban on Spanking in the Home

…………………………………………………….259

III. The Problems Associated with Anti-Spanking Laws: A Look at the First Country to Ban All Physical Discipline

…………………………………………………….264

A. A Little Less Spanking, A Lot More Child Abuse

…………………………………………………….266

B. A Little Less Spanking, A Lot More Teen Violence

…………………………………………………….271

C. Reflecting on Sweden’s Spanking Ban: More Harm than Good

…………………………………………………….274

IV. Misleading Research and Media Coverage Virtually Monopolize the Spanking Debate

…………………………………………………….277

A. The Research “Should Be Closely Examined for Evidence of Bias”

…………………………………………………….278

B. “The Methodological Flaws in the Cited Evidence Are of Concern”

…………………………………………………….281

C. “Avoid the Insidious Evils of . . . Propaganda Favoring Particular Points of View”

…………………………………………………….292

D. “Risk . . . Alone Is Insufficient to Support Regulation” Because “It Is Always a Doubtful Course, to Argue Against the Use or Existence of a Power, from the Possibility of Its Abuse”

…………………………………………………….305

V. The Most Comprehensive Child Development Study Validates the Body of Research that Suggests Spanking Is Harmless

…………………………………………………….306

A. Sound Research Indicates that Physical Discipline Does Not Inherently Harm Children

…………………………………………………….309

B. Sound Research Indicates that Children with the Highest Optimism, Academic Achievement, and Self-Esteem Have Been Spanked

…………………………………………………….311

Conclusion

…………………………………………………….315

1 See, e.g., Murray A. Straus, New Theory and Old Canards about Family Violence Research, 38 SOC. PROBLEMS 180 (1991) (espousing the Cultural Spillover theory); U.N., Children and Violence, (“[I]n 1996, Italy’s Supreme Court . . . declared unlawful any use of violence for educational purposes within the family or in schools, affirming that ‘the very expression correction of children . . . expresses a view of child-rearing that is both culturally anachronistic and historically outdated.’”)

2 See, e.g., Sweden’s rate of child abuse has risen almost six times since the spanking ban. See, e.g., U. Wittrock, Barnmisshandel I Kriminalstatstiken 1981-1991 [Violent Crimes Against Children in Criminal Statistics, 1981-1991], KR Info. 7 (1992) (Swed.), available at http://ches.okstate.edu/facultystaff/Larzelere/sweden81.html [hereinafter Wittrock, 1981-1991];

U. Wittrock, Barnmisshandel, 1984-1994 [Violent Crimes Against Children, 1984-1994], KR Info. 1-6 (1995) (Swed.), available at http://ches.okstate.edu/facultystaff/Larzelere/sweden84.html [hereinafter Wittrock, 1984-1994] (collectively showing the rates of indoor abuses when the perpetrator personally knows the child 0-6 years old rising every year, from 99 in 1981 to 583 in 1994).

3 Sweden’s rate of juvenile assaults has risen more than seven times since the spanking ban in 1979. See id. (collectively showing assaults by juveniles under fifteen on their peers rose from 93 in 1981 to 718 in 1994); ROBERT E. LARZELERE, PH.D., SWEDEN’S SMACKING BAN: MORE HARM THAN GOOD 14 (2004) (saying “the incidents requiring medical attention doubled for 16-20 year-olds. The latter trend suggests that the average victimization incident is getting more severe and not less severe . . . . Their rates of physical child abuse and criminal assaults by minors against minors have increased at least five- or six-fold since the smacking [i.e., spanking] ban.”); infra Part III.

4 RAY BURKE, PH.D., RON HERRON & BRIDGET A. BARNES, COMMON SENSE PARENTING 140-41 (2006) (saying that negative consequences for misbehavior help children understand what their limits are, cause them not to test those limits as often, and greatly reduce their  frequency of misbehavior).

5 The terms “mental punishment” and “mental discipline” are synonymous with “non-physical punishment” and “non-physical discipline.” Just as physical punishment is intended to distress a child through physical pain, mental punishment is intended to distress a child through mental pain.

6 See, e.g., Larzelere, Meta-Analysis, supra note 15, at 20 tbl. IV, 22 tbl. V, 24 tbl. VI (showing spanking to be better at controlling aggression than mental punishments like timeout, reasoning, scolding, “non-contact” punishment, privilege removal, love withdrawal, or diverting. Also showing that calm and controlled spanking and spanking in response to defiance is uniformly more beneficial than other punishments); id. at 27 (saying “all types of physical punishment were associated with lower rates of antisocial behavior than were alternative disciplinary tactics.”) (emphasis in original); id. at 1 (finding that conditional spanking reduced noncompliance and antisocial behavior in more than ten of thirteen mental punishments, and was equivalent to the other three); Larzelere, Review, supra note 17, at 827 (finding that, for young children, spanking was more beneficial than all seven alternative discipline responses—physical restraint, a child-determined release from time out, reasoning without punishment, punishment without reasoning,