Countries that ban spanking have kids who are less likely to be violent

A study published in BMJ Open showed that in countries with a total ban on spanking there is less fighting among young people. (Photo: Getty Images)

Spanking is, at present, controversial among U.S. parents. 

Is a tap on the rump OK just to correct behavior the way your parents did? Or is spanking in any form child abuse – enough said?

A large study from BMJ Open found spanking, slapping and smacking has far-reaching consequences in countries around the world.   

The potential impact on banning spanking and child safety is the most striking find of the study, which looked at 400,000 youths in 88 countries. 

The 30 countries with full bans on corporal punishment (which apply to schools and homes) experienced 69 percent lower rates of physical fighting among adolescent males and 42 percent less for females.

Germany, Spain, Brazil, Ukraine and New Zealand are among the countries with full bans. 

Inside countries with partial bans (in schools only), females showed a 56 percent lower rate of physical fighting. There was no change among males. Partial-ban countries include the U.S., U.K. and Canada.

“All we can say, at this point, is that countries that prohibit the use of corporal punishment are less violent for children to grow up in than countries that do not,” said Frank Elgar, lead study author and associate professor of the Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in Montreal.

Wealth and homicide rates don’t change the findings 

In the U.S., which has a partial ban on corporal punishment in schools only, there was no change among boys in the rate of physical fighting, according to a BMJ Open study on spanking and youth violence. (Photo: Getty Images)

For the study, researchers from Canada, the U.S. and Israel looked at the results of surveys that asked how often children ages 11 to 25 years had physically fought with others within the last 12 months.

Researchers said the association held true despite differences among wealth and violence rates between countries.

“The researchers found that the associations between corporal punishment and youth violence remained,” even after taking  into account such things as per capita income, homicide  rates and “parent education (programs) to prevent child maltreatment.”

The researchers cautioned that they only can declare an association on corporal punishment and violence in youth, not a causal relationship between legal bans.

Spanking can make a child think he is an ‘undesirable person’

The American Psychological Association adopted a resolution against spanking in schools and other institutions in favor of other forms of discipline in 1975.

Among the reasons:

  • Corporal punishment intended to influence “undesirable responses” may create in the child the impression that he or she is an “undesirable person.”
  • Research has shown that to a considerable extent, children learn by imitating the behavior of adults, especially those they are dependent upon, and the use of corporal punishment by adults having authority over children is likely to train children to use physical violence to control behavior rather than rational persuasion, education, and intelligent forms of both positive and negative reinforcement.
  • Research has shown that the effective use of punishment in eliminating undesirable behavior requires precision in timing, duration, intensity and specificity, as well as considerable sophistication in controlling a variety of relevant environmental and cognitive factors, such that punishment administered in institutional settings, without attention to all these factors, is likely to instill hostility, rage and a sense of powerlessness without reducing the undesirable behavior.

Worldwide, 54 countries have full bans on corporal punishment for minors. Sweden was the first to adopt a ban in 1979.  Nepal is the most recent country to follow suit, banning it this year. 

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