Today is an important day to take a brief diversion from my focus on sexual abuse prevention and honor an important landmark for anyone who works with child maltreatment — If you you ever wondered whether it’s OK to spank your kids, the American Academy of Pediatrics says an emphatic “no” in an updated policy statement issued Monday that calls for a ban on corporal punishment, or spanking. Thousands of professionals who work with children and families agree.
Why? Decades of scientific evidence show that, when compared with children who were not hit for discipline, those who were hit have an increased risk for health problems of all kinds as they age: social, behavioral, cognitive, emotional, and physical. They’re at risk for increased aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression.
The stress of being spanked or even severely verbally admonished can raise levels of stress hormones in children and teens in ways that impede brain development. Overly harsh discipline such as hitting disrupts a child’s ability for bonding and attachment to parents and caregivers, the very backbone of loving family life and a foundational element in learning how to be social.
Current data show most U.S. adults report that they’ve been spanked and believe it is a necessary form of discipline. There is a common thought of “I turned out OK, so how bad can it be?” Of course, we may all be OK, but it’s time to stop the practice, given what we know now. Let’s not forget the times back then. In the 1960s, parents didn’t make kids wear seatbelts.