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2.06.2012

Tough Love

Over time, and especially in the 20th century, the use harsh corporal punitive measures has declined in favor of more "enlightened" methods, like positive reinforcement, praise, and reward.  Beginning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, laws began to be passed to limit corporal punishment in schools, and it quickly became culturally accepted that hitting was less preferable to other methods of correction that appealed to the emotions and reason to call for changes in behavior.  While I'm all for progress, I also believe in taking a balanced approach.

Public advocate softies have been decrying spanking for years as abuse saying that spanking causes lowered IQ in children, creates a propensity for criminal behavior later in life, and causes low self esteem. I appear to be the sole anomaly, since I was not only spanked, but belted, and (without resorting to using the G word) I have a high IQ, and achieved high levels of academic success, paying my way through post graduate education while working nights at a dungeon, and becoming financially independent by the age of twenty-one.  I've got a different take on spanking. I think that kids with difficult (excuse me, "challenging") personalities drive parents to near insanity, and that normal parents who might have resorted to spanking early on, end up abusing their kids in other ways out of frustration when "enlightened" methods fail to yield results.

There has been a long held misconception that children who have not experienced violence will not become violent, which ignores that fact that violence is inherent to human nature.  It is well known that correlative studies do not prove causation; they merely find associations between different variables. It just so happens, though, that the real life consequences of bans on spanking can be seen in Sweden, where youth violence has skyrocketed to more than 200% since the moratorium on spanking in the late 70s. The rough guide for Sweden now lists Swedish children on its top ten worst things about Sweden list.  In 2005, when a 50 year old man lost it and shot a 13 year old boy, who, with two others, had harrassed them, threatened to kill his son, run them off the road with their mopeds, ripped off their car door, destroyed their mailbox, and tried to publicly humiliate them, according to a document reviewing spanking by Jason Fuller .  In his paper, he noted that had this happened in the US, the response would have been, "How can we prevent this from happening again," while in Sweden, the frustration with the country's youth was so wide spread that public response was largely, "Shoot another one."


Operant Conditioning Basics (for dummies):

  • Positive Reinforcement:  Rat pushes lever A.  Rat receives a food pellet as an appetetive stimulus (a reward.)
  •  Positive Punishment (as opposed to negative punishment, which is the removal of an appetetive stimulus):  Rat pushes lever B.  Rat receives electric shock.

If the rat is put on a consistent schedule of reinforcement and punishment, that is, if the rat receives food every time it presses lever A and shock every time it presses lever B, it learns very quickly that pushing A produces a pleasurable outcome, and that pushing B results in discomfort.  Instances of presses of lever A will rapidly increase until satiety is reached, while instances of pushing B will quickly cease.  Now imagine that the rat begins receiving nothing for pressing lever A.   Gradually, over time, instances of pressing lever A will decrease, a phenomenon known to behaviorists as "extinction."  The effects of positive punishment are observed more immediatly, while the effects of extinction are observed over a much longer time.

A little note on schedules of reinforcement-  It is known that while fixed interval reinforcement schedules produce consistent increases in target behaviors, that random schedules of reinforcement (rewards given out randomly, like a slot machine) produce very powerful reinforcement of target behaviors that are very hard to extinguish. There haven't been any studies on random schedules of punishment, but my hunch is that consistent punishment, administered immediately after the target behavior, will result in the extinction of the target behavior more quickly than random schedules.

In the social sciences, it is often difficult to ascertain the effects of behavior deemed to be a social ill through controlled experiments, since such experiments would be unethical, so we resort to using correlational studies and statistical meta-analysis.  One such study conducted by Diana Baumrind found that "...an analysis of data from a long-term study of more than 100 families, indicating that mild to moderate spanking had no detrimental effects when such confounding influences [such as parent-child dynamic, and abuse other than spanking]were separated out" (Goode, 2001).  Another case review study of 38 children by Dr. Robert Larzelere of the University of Nebraska Medical center found that "in children under 7, nonabusive spanking produced no harmful effects and reduced misbehavior when used as a backup for milder discipline techniques like reasoning or timeouts" (Goode, 2001).  In fact, many child abuse specialists concede in an article in Slate Magazine that spanking can be appropriate on occasion , and in fact, some studies have linked spanking to academic success (Martin, 2010).

It always bemuses me when I hear parents trying to reason with a screaming three year old.  The fact of the matter is, that while reasoning may work a large proportion of the time, for certain kids, spanking is the only thing that really works.  It is my sincere belief that moderate spanking can be a useful tool to help curtail negative behaviors in children, and in the cases of teens and adults, such as the malicious socio-pathic Swedes mentioned earlier, a bit of corporal punishment might be just the cure-all the doctor ordered.  When considering the negative effects of spanking, it is also important to consider the probable consequences of NOT spanking.  So, if you love your kid, go ahead, give that little hellion a few smacks on the ass to keep 'em in line.  They'll love you for it later.







wine country mom's blog


References

Cherry, Kendra.  Introduction to Operant Conditioning.  [About.com] Retrieved from
http://psychology.about.com/od/behavioralpsychology/a/introopcond.htm on Feb 6, 2012

Children Who are Spanked Have Lower IQs, New Research Finds.  (Sep 24, 2009) [Science Daily]
retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090924231749.htm  on Feb 6, 2012


Fuller, Jason M.  The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Allowing Corporal Punishment is in the Best Interest of the Child.  Retrieved from
https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=explorer&chrome=true&srcid=0B797sn3aeZZ-YTQ0Yzk2YmMtNWRhNi00N2NjLTg2ODUtMzk5NTdmMDFmNDI1&hl=en_US&authkey=CMi8uIQG  on Feb 6, 2012

Youth Violence in Sweden: The Rodeby Shooting Case. Retrieved from http://www.nkmr.org/english/youth_violence_in_sweden.htm on February 6, 2012

Goode, E. Findings Give Some Support To Advocates of Spanking. [NYTimes](Aug 25, 2001)
retrieved from  http://www.nytimes.com/2001/08/25/us/findings-give-some-support-to-advocates-of-spanking.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm on Feb 6, 2012


Martin, D.  (Jan 2010)Young Children Who are Smacked Go on to be More Successful. [Mail Online] Retrieved from   http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1240279/Children-smacked-young-likely-successful-study-finds.html on February 6, 2012

Sanghavi, D.  Spank No More, Why are Fewer Parents Hitting Their Kids? [Slate] Retrieved from  http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/medical_examiner/2011/12/spanking_is_on_the_decline_why_.html   on Feb 6, 2012

Should a Smack Be a Criminal Offense?  Retrieved from
http://www.voteno.org.nz/faq.htm  on February 6, 2012

UC Berkley Study Finds No Lasting Harm Among Adolescents From Moderate Spanking Earlier in Childhood. (Aug 24, 2001) [UCB Campus News] Retrieved from http://berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2001/08/24_spank.html on Feb 6, 2012

Youth Violence in Sweden: The Rodeby Shooting Case.  Retrieved from
http://www.nkmr.org/english/youth_violence_in_sweden.htm  on February 6, 2012

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree with you re the utility of occasional spankings in children.
The key is NOT to think of it so much as punishment for having done bad but rather as aversive behavior modification. You hit the child not for what they've done but to inhibit a similar behavior in the future.
Example: child runs out into the street. You catch him and spank him while saying "Don't EVER run out into the street like that again". You are NOT so much interested in saying "that was a bad thing to do".

Lady G said...

I'm with you! Spanking has gotten a bad rap. As long as it is done with the specific intention of behavior modification, much good can come of it! Thanks for your comment!