Hit or miss? AAP strengthens ban on spanking children

November 6, 2018

In an updated policy statement on corporal punishment, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new evidence on November 5 that spanking harms children—and even may affect normal brain development.

Indeed, updated research has shown that striking a child—or yelling at or shaming them—can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brain’s architecture. Harsh verbal abuse is also linked to mental health problems in preteens and adolescents.

This week, at the AAP’s 2018 National Conference, the professional group is strengthening its ban on corporal punishment with an updated policy statement, “Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children.”

Pediatricians long have believed that corporal punishment—or the use of spanking as a disciplinary tool—increases aggression in young children in the long run and is ineffective in teaching a child responsibility and self-control. The policy statement, to be published in the December 2018 issue of Pediatrics also addresses the harm associated with verbal punishment, such as shaming or humiliation.

“The good news is, fewer parents support the use of spanking than … in the past,” said AAP member Dr. Robert D. Sege, an author of the policy statement. “Yet corporal punishment remains legal in many states, despite evidence that it harms kids—not only physically and mentally, but in how they perform at school and how they interact with other children.”

He noted that, in one study, young children who were spanked more than twice a month at age three were more aggressive at age five. Those same children at age nine still exhibited negative behaviors and lower receptive vocabulary scores, according to the research.

“It’s best to begin with the premise of rewarding positive behavior,” said Dr. Benjamin S. Siegel, co-author of the policy statement. “Parents can set up rules and expectations in advance. The key is to be consistent in following through with them.”

The policy statement provides educational resources where physicians and parents can learn healthy forms of discipline, such as limit setting, redirecting and setting expectations.

“There’s no benefit to spanking,” Dr. Sege said. “We know that children grow and develop better with positive role modeling and by setting healthy limits. We can do better.”

Research contact: @BobSegeMD

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *