It’s only spanking! Isn’t it?

October 30th, 2015

by Inder Ruprah and Camilo Pecha



Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Author, PicFreak


If you ask Caribbean adults if corporal punishment is OK, 66% (65% of males and 68% of females) say yes. Of these, 91% (93% males and 89% females) admit to suffering corporal punishment as children. Of the latter only 13% (14% males and 11% females) respond by declaring corporal punishment as unacceptable. Thus, there is a high level (see Figure 1) of and an inter-generational perpetuation (see Figure 2) of corporal punishment. This generalized acceptance runs counter to scientific evidence, which concludes that it is bad.


Physical punishment doesn’t actually work, even if it appears to. Spanking may stop problematic behavior, says Sandra Graham-Bermann, but that’s because the child is afraid. In the long- term, physical punishment will only make kids’ behavior worse.  Physical punishment encourages kids to continue the cycle of abuse. A 2011 study published in Child Abuse and Neglect confirmed that physical punishment is cyclical — children who are hit are more likely to use violence to solve problems with their peers and siblings. In fact bullying at school is quite high in the Caribbean according to Ruprah and Sierra. (Mothers Are Right: Eat Your Vegetables and Keep Away From the Girls (Boys): Bullying Victimization Profile in the Caribbean) Later on, they’re at a higher risk for delinquency and criminal behavior, according to a 2013 article, “Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children”. The negative effects of physical punishment continue well into adulthood. A 2012 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that “harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders.” Spanking actually alters children’s brains. A 2009 study concluded that children who were frequently spanked (defined as at least once a month for more than three years) “had less grey matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex that have been linked to depression, addiction and other mental health disorders.”

The bottom line: Stacy Drury says “The goal of discipline, which actually comes from the Latin root meaning ‘to teach,’ is to change behavior. And physical discipline across many, many, many studies is ineffective at changing behavior and it’s ineffective for many reasons … corporal punishment actually teaches children is that aggression is an acceptable method for solving problems.”

Of course, Caribbean parents know it is just spanking and has nothing to do with bullying at school or the high level of violence and crime, or drug abuse or suicides in the Caribbean, or does it?


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