Evidence-based science shows that harsh and abusive treatments can produce harms. This is why Keep 43 opposes all forms of child abuse.
However; nothing considered salutary spanking under Canadian law equates to harsh physical punishment. One deception often used by “anti-spanking” researchers is to study abusive treatments, not differentiate these with constructive spanking, and purposefully conflate the two to arrive at false conclusions. The many studies such as this one, which define and examine normative spanking vs. physical mistreatments consistently show spanking causes no harms, and that the outcomes are generally better than those raised without it.
One example of this deception is the (Afifi. et. al. 2012) study of Harsh Physical Punishment. The study inferred some disorders were correlated with abusive treatments. That is surely correct. However, this survey study’s questions did not ask anything about childhood spanking. Yet, it suddenly denigrated spanking several times in the conclusions.
Regrettably, this type of deception is used to seduce many uninformed people who don’t understand scientific methodology. Please read the rebuttal published to the CMAJ (below).
Citation: Den A. Trumbull, MD, Robert E. Larzelere, PhD and Peter Nieman, MD, “Harsh Physical Punishment and Disciplinary Spanking Are Very Different” CMAJ, Letter to Editor of Pediatrics, july 2012
Pioneers in the research of family and parenting (such as Dr. R. Larzelere, Oklahoma State U, Dr. Diana Baumrind, U. Cal, Berkeley, CA, and Dr. M. Gunnoe, Calvin College, MI, to name a few) have yielded a very convincing volume of clinical research and evidence-based studies comparing parenting styles. This is perhaps best summarized in Dr. Larzelere’s recent work, “Authoritative Parenting: Synthesizing Nurturance and Discipline for Optimal Child Development” 2013, American Psychological Association.
The synopsis: “Authoritative Parenting” (AP) is high in nurturance/responsiveness and demandingness (formerly called, “Traditional” or “loving and firmly guiding” parenting). Approximately 20% of parents are AP and of those that are, they universally enforce with occasional and moderate spanking. These children consistently have better outcomes than those from the entire parenting-style spectrum; the opposite of the spanking-ban opinions.
This was independently supported by Dr.M.Gunnoe (Associations Between Parenting Style, Physical Discipline and Adjustment in Adolescents’ Reports, 2013, 112, 3, 933-975) which shows that children raised with non-abusive spanking “performed better than those who weren’t in a whole series of categories, including school grades, an optimistic outlook on life, the willingness to perform volunteer work, and the ambition to attend college … And they performed no worse than those who weren’t spanked in areas like early sexual activity, getting into fights, and becoming depressed” whereby she concludes, “The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data”.
Dr. Diana Baumrind’s research (UC Berkeley) also confirmed, “We found no evidence for unique detrimental effects of normative physical punishment … a blanket injunction against its use is not warranted by the evidence … in the absence of compelling evidence of harm, parental autonomy and family privacy should be protected.
Societal observations further confirm this: for example, a study showing French children (87% of which are raised with spanking) “are more polite and better-adjusted on a list of comparatives”. Of course, if any of these spanking-ban opinions had any validity, then the unspanked Swedish children would be a role-model to French children, rather than the other way around.
Figure 1: Relates “Nurturance” with “Demandingness” to delineate parenting styles
Dr. Diana Baumrind (UC Berkeley) is credited with defining seven parenting styles by relating “Responsiveness” with “Demandingness”, “Baumrind’s seven Parenting Styles”, 1989, and Baumrind, Larzelere & Owens, 2010)
Figure 1, adapted from that work, relates Nurturance with the degree that age-appropriate limits are set and enforced.
In relating parenting styles: child abuse is less of a concern where nurturance and reasonably-managed demandingness are high. It appears more prevalent where these dynamics are missing. So, it should come as no surprise that laws designed to force parents into low-demandingness models also induce child abuse when the outcomes become intolerable.
To understand the entire parenting-approach matrix, please read our PDF below (best read in two-page view):
An Overview of Parenting Systems:
Understanding why parental “spanking bans” increase child abuse
Parenting Systems, Spanking Bans & Child Abuse
Adobe Acrobat document [1.1 MB]
Are Spanking Injunctions Scientifically Supported?
Citation: Larzelere, R. E., & Baumrind, D. (2010). Are spanking injunctions scientifically supported? Law & Contemporary Problems, 73, 57-88
2010 Larzelere, Baumrind – Are Spanking Injunctions Scientifically Supported
Adobe Acrobat document [188.3 KB]
Do nonphysical punishments reduce antisocial behavior more than spanking?
Citation: Larzelere, R. E., Cox, R., & Smith, G. L. (2010). Do nonphysical punishments reduce antisocial behavior more than spanking? A comparison using the strongest previous causal evidence against spanking. BMC Pediatrics. 10 (10) Online publication. doi:1186/1471-2431-10-10. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2431/10/10
2010 Larzelere, Cox, Smith – Do nonphysical punishments reduce antisocial
Adobe Acrobat document [419.9 KB]
Spanking bans are proven to induce resentment and defensiveness in parents who are forced to choose between ineffective or abusive enforcements. This deterrent effect of environments hostile to children and family costs spanking-ban countries the loss of up to one-half childbirth per female. The Fertility rates (FR) in most EU spanking ban countries has now collapsed below FR 1.5, the mathematical “Point of No Return” citation.
Incredibly China, with a draconian one-child policy since c.1979, could not drive down FRs as effectively as the EU could with predatory anti-parenting policies.
We have reviewed over 140 publications supposedly dealing with this issue, but they don’t. The majority are simply opinion papers devoid of new and meaningful empirical data. The rest are not only critically flawed in several ways, they have nothing to do with our current Sec.43 laws:
1) They look at American treatments, (or old Canadian data before definitions existed), all of which is already abusive and illegal by SCOC (2004) standards;
2) They intentionally do not define the difference between constructive discipline against a list of physical abuses, and conflate these two opposites to arrive at distorted conclusions: much in the same way looking at children who were locked in a cellar for a week cannot conclude anything about being sent to the bedroom for an hour;
3) Some like to show correlations like “the 90% of adults who were spanked…” but this is not causation because 90% of children were read bedtime stories, bathed regularly, etc. and just as many correlate to the same faulty conclusions;
4) However; there is not even one objective study examining normative spanking (as per SCOC definitions) that has ever scientifically proven any particular negative effect as opposed to other consequences or interventions such as psychotherapy or medicating (Ritalin). It simply doesn’t exist.
In 2014, this study examined 18,000 minors in 13 institutional environments where the main enforcement was corporal punishment. This hard-data examination of minors CP’d in real time is the largest such evidence-based study in existence.That research very robustly and repeatedly proved:
1) Corporal Punishment (“CP”) is very effective in absolute measures
2) CP is more effective than comparative enforcement alternatives (exclusions & confinement spectrum)
3) Subjecting a bully to CP does not increase this type of behaviour; CP convincingly stops bullying
4) CP is three times more effective in modifying violent behaviours (such as children hitting or bullying others) than all other behaviour types. This entirely debunks the myth that CP teaches children “hitting others is OK”
5) CP yields long-term compliance with very few applications
6) CP is more effective for pre-teens than adolescents (the deterrence of a warning is much higher)
7) Effectiveness does not materially increase by applying CP harshly or severely
Therefore; Canada’s laws have defined minor force in disciplining exactly right.
Is constructively and non-abusively enforcing children’s behaviour a Human Rights Issue?
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) Article 37 states: “No child shall be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
Constructive discipline, as narrowly defined by Canadian law, is not a violation of the Rights of the Child (and in 2004, the SCOC agreed). The methods inflicting minor physical or mental deterrence as allowable under law are nowhere near this definition.
If they were, then it would be equally illegal to place your child in a time-out, confinement to their bedroom, being grounded, or taking video game/TV privileges away. All of these operations inflict mental pain and can cause anger, resentment, and even violent outbursts in children, yet they are all considered constructive enforcements just like transitory and non-abusive spanking.
IF it were true (and it is NOT) that the infliction of temporary pain for the betterment of the child is a Human Rights violation, then by the same definition, all of these operations equally violate Children’s Rights: vaccinations, doctor / emergency room visits, and dental work, and must be equally criminalized. It either is an absolute “Right” or it is not; the “Right” cannot be selective to someone’s particular whim, so which is it?
The UN has no mandate to instruct parents on disciplining methods as cited by the SUN here. “There is no paragraph or subsection devoted to ridding the world of spanking in its entire 13,338-word length”
One purveyor of the ban-ideology stated (CMAJ) “If any member of Canadian society were to smack another on the bottom for any reason it would be assault. Unless, of course, the recipient of the assault is a child between the ages of 2 and 12.”
That statement exemplifies a worrying detachment from reality.
The parent-child relationship is unique. There are many aspects to parenting that are inappropriate in any other context. For example, it would also not be appropriate to force your neighbour to bed at 8 sharp, demand they eat their vegetables, wash and wipe and change them, or check their bottom to be sure they’re clean.
It is perverse logic to advocate prohibiting operations of parenting on the basis of what is acceptable interaction with a neighbour. Anyone who has actually raised children should intuitively recognize this. Do you propose children must be treated as adults? We enforce anti-social adult behaviour with imprisonment. Surely rational people can see that enforcement options must be age and context-appropriate, and not solely based on what society does with adults.
Constructive physical discipline is more effective than all other enforcement alternatives, and Authoritative parenting styles (“traditional” or “loving & firmly guiding”) that use occasional and moderate spanking as a back-up to other methods in nurturing environments consistently produce the best developmental outcomes. The spectrum of harms come from its removal, not from its judicious use.
Objective and detailed hard-data investigations, coupled with broad clinical longitudinal studies of parenting outcomes, and empirical observation of societal experiences, all show anti-spanking opinions are wishful thinking to impose harmful agendas, but they have no basis in fact and are continually debunked when put to scientific scrutiny.
Credits: all Icons from the Noun Project (www.thenounproject.com)
Parent with Children Icon credit Juan Pablo Bravo / Handcuffs Icon credit Fausto Albamonte / Parent Catching Child Icon credit Juan Pablo Bravo / Judge’s Gavel Icon credit Bruno Gätjens González