spanking_aggression.jpgA child misbehaves; the mother is tired or problematic, and so the child gets spanked. In many households, this scenario may not be outside the norm, especially when parents are themselves victims to depression, burn-out, financial crisis, or emotional and physical abuse. These parents may sometimes lose patience and their sense of balance at home and resort to corporal punishment, such as spanking, to ward off their children’s tantrums. Many, having grown up with being spanked or paddled for childhood misdemeanors, don’t see any problems with raising their children as they have been raised. But research may prove that this is a problem.

Maria Lourdes L. Chavez, the associate dean for Student Affairs at Miriam College and national board secretary for the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association, says that “spanking has always been part of the Filipino way of disciplining children.” But she reminds parents that, in a way, spanking is considered a form of physical abuse since the act involves hitting a child. “Although our law on the protection of children doesn’t expound so much on spanking as a form of child abuse, it could be considered as an act of abuse on children under RA7610’s Other Acts of Abuse—whether habitual or not.”

Spanking leads to aggression and fear rather than understanding

This article based on a new study gathered by Tulane University researchers and published in Pediatrics presents strong evidence on the harmful effects of spanking and other corporal punishment. Conducted with nearly 2,500 young subjects, this study found that children who were spanked more often at the age of three were much more prone to showing aggressive behavior when they reached the age of five.

The five-year-olds who were spanked more were easily frustrated, demanded instant satisfaction of their needs and wants, showed temper tantrums, and even attacked people or animals physically—apparently, a manifestation of how they were abused themselves. Children spanked more than twice a month during their third year had a 50 percent greater chance of displaying aggression at age five. For these reasons, the researchers believed that “spanking remained to be a strong predictor of violent behavior.” The Time article also adds that “corporeal punishment instills fear rather than understanding,” in children.

Chavez elaborates on how aggressive behavior can result from spanking: “Aggression sets in when a child doesn’t understand the reason for getting spanked or punished. Oftentimes, a child finds the situation as unfair and slowly grows to resent their parents. The child may exhibit the desired behavior out of fear, but deep inside, the child is seething with anger. Now since the anger cannot be expressed at home, it manifests in other forms of aggressive behavior outside the home.”

She further clarifies that unprocessed disciplining results in the child’s failure to understand what makes certain behaviors unacceptable or what consequences these behaviors can have on others and on his or her relationships. Chavez stresses the need to help children process their situations and understand not just that they are being punished, but why they are being punished. “If we only stop [at] punishment without processing the situation,” she says, “then we get an angry child with growing aggression.”

Spanking is like smoking: It’s dangerous to your child’s (mental, emotional, and sexual) health

Even the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) advises that spanking becomes less effective, especially when done repeatedly. Spanking also “reinforces negative memories in the child’s mind,” quoting Susan Newman, a social psychologist and author, in this article. Meanwhile, a local report in also notes that spanked children have lower IQ scores, while frequent spanking has been associated with problematic behaviors, such as anxiety, depression, excessive alcohol use, and criminal or violent behavior.

Another disturbing and surprising finding is from a Newsweek article, which states that “spanking kids increases their risk of sexual problems as adults.” The article was based on a provocative paper by Murray Straus, a long-time researcher in this field and co-director at the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire. In the same study, it was discovered that children who experienced corporal punishment were more prone to force dating partners to engage in sex, particularly in masochistic or risky sex.

Chavez, a mother herself, doesn’t believe at all in the idea of spanking for discipline. “I know how challenging the role of disciplining is, and we need all help and patience we could get, including understanding the developmental stages, just so we can be creative in handling the different situations of parenthood.” The home, she again stresses, should not be a place where our children learn that physical abuse (in the form of spanking or hitting) is acceptable. To put it simply, even mild physical abuse from the parents sets a bad example for children.

So in lieu of spanking and other corporal punishments, the experts in the field recommend healthier alternatives to disciplining your children—without belt, rod, or hand—and foster better relationships with them over time.

Check out the slide show below to see some suggestions on how to help your children learn to accept that their behavior (and misbehavior) has consequences.

How do you discipline your children? Leave a comment on this page to let us know.

Special thanks to Maria Lourdes L. Chavez, RGC. Apart from her role as associate dean for student affairs at Miriam College and national board secretary for the Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association, she is also a lifetime member of the Philippine Mental Health Association and a member of the Psychological Association of the Philippines.

(Photo by Stanislava via
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