Does Getting Spanked Make You Stupid?
To spank or not to spank—a few conflicting studies are making this an increasingly confusing question. Just last September a study came out showing a correlation between spanking and low IQs (and as one of the study’s researchers completely superfluously pointed out: “All parents want smart children”). Then last week, another study appeared saying, basically, just the opposite—that children who are spanked are more likely to do well in school and be optimistic than their non-spanked peers.
The practice is currently banned in 24 countries, one of which is Sweden, where a law against corporal punishment was passed back in 1979. Reports about the results don’t help clarify things either, with some indicating the law has reduced acceptance and incidents of corporal punishment (you can find that argument here), and others (such as Slate, in this article) pointing out that police reports of child abuse have risen dramatically since then. (As the Slate article points out, one possible explanation for the increase in the reports is simply that people have become more aware of child abuse as a problem.)
Corporal punishment is banned in about half U.S. states, but one recently mentioned statistic on NPR really blew me away—that there were 220,000 paddlings during the 2006-2007 school year. According to the Department of Education, 7.5% of students in Mississippi were actually paddled during that year (the New York Times piece on the subject is here). That was the highest state percentage, and those numbers are far lower than what they’ve been in the past, but still, I didn’t even know it was still legal to paddle a student in the U.S.
One possible way to make sense of those two opposing studies is to note that while the study that found a correlation between spankings and a low IQ noted rates of corporal punishment, the other study did not. Which could mean that it is frequent or severe spankings that cause the problems, and if the second study had looked at that, the results would not have been quite so in contrast to the other one.
This makes sense to me. My parents were pretty nurturing, but I did receive a few (fairly gentle) spankings in my time. They left vivid memories, but no long-term negative effects, at least none that I know of.
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