Monday, November 27, 2017

What About Spanking? A Recent Study

Parents either believe in the value of spanking or they don’t. Many young parents will be guided by scientific evidence but others will follow traditional practices, which often include spanking.

Psychological Science does not support the value of spanking. There is reasonable evidence linking parental spanking by age 5 to behavior problems at ages 6 and 8.

Here’s a quote from Dr. Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin on findings from their recent study.
“Our findings suggest that spanking is not an effective technique and actually makes children’s behavior worse not better.”

Spanking, Ethics, and Research

The reason psychologists cannot speak with a certainty is that it is unethical to conduct experiments where children are randomly assigned to spanking and nonspanking parents.

Sample Size

The sample size was huge. Gershoff and her colleagues looked at the results from 12,112 children whose parents participated in the US Early Childhood Longitudinal Study.  After identifying those who spanked, the scientists formed a comparison group of parents who did not spank but were similar based on 38 parent and child characteristics such as gender, health, behavior problems, parent’s education, and their social-economic level. They looked at the size of the household and degree of conflict in the home. The also matched on age and marital status. The goal was to create two equivalent groups whose main difference was spanking or not spanking. Read more in the article--see link below.

Spanking: Survey Data

According to an ABCNEWS poll, 65% of U S parents support spanking. About half admit they spank their own children at time but most do not approve of spanking in schools-- 72% believe it should not be permitted.

There is a regional difference. More parents in the U S South (62%) spank than those who live elsewhere (41%).

Spanking also varies with a parent's education. Among those with college degrees, 38% spank but 55% of those with less than a college education spank.

There are no state laws that prohibit spanking in general. But 27 states have policies against spanking. At the time of the poll, spanking was permitted in schools in 23 states. 

What do parents do?

A study of parenting trends between 1988 and 2011 found that U S parents have used less physical discipline. For example, mothers with a median income, reported the use of physical punishment at 21% in 2011 compared to 46% in 1988.  So, what are parents doing? More parents are opting for timeouts and talking with children instead of spanking. (Strauss at Slate)

I should note that timeouts are also challenged. Here's a link to the timeout discussion. 

Technical notes
Surveys rely on self-report, which can be subject to positive impression management.
Large surveys (usually over 1,000) can reduce bias when there is an effort to ensure the sample is representative of a population.
Writers in leading publications write about timeout as one word or with a hyphen, time-out.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Child Discipline is about Relationships

We all respond better to people whom we respect. And respect is easier when we have a positive relationship. Parenting is a long-term relationship. In Western cultures, physically close parent-child relationships can last more than 20 years. 

Parenting won’t look the same when a child is 5 or 15. But two people won’t enjoy a positive life-long relationship that is not built on love and respect.

Teacher-child relationships can last 10-months, which is still a long time. Foster-parent-child relationships can last for years. Other relationship time-frames will vary of course. But all relationships can last a lifetime when adults and children demonstrate love and respect for each other.

If you are a parent of young children in your 20s or 30s, you are probably pretty busy with daily living! You may have had the experience of catching yourself acting or sounding like one of your parents. These moments can help us think about our childhood experiences with discipline and parent-child relationships. What do you want your children to remember about their relationship with you when they are your age?

Holidays are also good times to reflect on the relationships we have with our parents. If they have passed away, we may think back to what the relationship was like. My point is not to dwell on any unpleasant memories but to focus on what we might want to do to ensure our children have a great relationship with us when they become adults.

We have a choice. We can continue to parent in some of the best ways we were parented. And we can choose to parent differently than the way we were raised. But if we don't think about it, we may repeat habits from the past--some good--some not so good. If we want to change, we need to get new ideas from observing others, reliable online sites, professionals, and reading a few good books.

Relationships are about love and trust in so many small ways. Love and trust build respect. As parents, we need to listen. Let children tell their stories even when they are agonizingly slow. When there are a few children, we arbitrate so each child has a voice and equal time. Listening to children is one way to communicate respect.

There are times when we must say no. There are times when children will lose privileges. But the negatives need not be what's typical of a parent-child relationship.

See more about love and respect in Discipline With Respect.


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