Is Spanking Child Abuse?

(This post was adapted from a larger post entitled The Path to Freedom: Parenting or Political Activism?)

Most people think that child abuse is some mysterious, subjective phenomenon that can be debated over. Is yelling at children abusive? Is hitting children abusive?

The truth is, trauma and abuse can be shown objectively using fMRI, and other neuro-imaging scans. These scans can clearly show damage in the brain caused by abuse, stress, trauma, violence, neglect, etc. Child abuse is no longer subjective, and cannot be hidden.

As cameras become ubiquitous, child-care providers can be easily ruled out as suspects. Aside from daycare, young children typically spend their time almost exclusively with their parents. If those parents are yelling at and spanking their children, and those children’s brains show signs of abuse, then the debate is over.

As the science and technology improves, scanning a child for abuse and trauma will soon be as easy as taking their temperature.

If I were a parent of a young child today, I would be extremely careful how far I dipped my toes into the spanking and yelling pond.

Trauma is a spectrum, and some children are far more sensitive than others. There is no one-size-fits-all demarcation between what is, and is not, traumatic to a child. Every child is different, and many children show clear signs of trauma after being spanked and yelled at, even though it is totally legal, and most people would not characterize that as child abuse.

With all that said, the science is overwhelmingly against spanking children.

Tulane University study provides strong evidence that spanking leads to aggressive behavior in children:

“In a new study published in Pediatrics, researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence yet that children’s short-term response to spanking may make them act out more in the long run. Of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were much more likely to be aggressive by age 5.

“The reason for this may be that spanking sets up a loop of bad behavior. Corporal punishment instills fear rather than understanding. Even if children stop tantrums when spanked, that doesn’t mean they get why they shouldn’t have been acting up in the first place. What’s more, spanking sets a bad example, teaching children that aggressive behavior is a solution to their parents’ problems.”

Spanking teaches children that aggression is a solution to their parent’s problems. Doesn’t that sound familiar? Libertarians are always arguing against using aggression in society to solve problems, but too often, as parents, they do exactly that with their own children.

A real-time study found that, not only did the parents hit their small children (between 2-5 years old) nearly 1,000 times per year, oftentimes for trivial reasons, they often did it to discourage their children from hitting:

“Moms and dads who spank do so because they believe it’s effective, and research actually shows that it is — in the short-term. A child reaching for a tempting object will stop if he gets swatted. “It does work in the immediate moment, but beyond that, in most cases, it’s very ineffective,” says Holden. “The most common long-term consequence is that children learn to use aggression.”

Case in point: one mother in the study hit her toddler after the toddler either hit or kicked the mother, admonishing, “This is to help you remember not to hit your mother.”

“The irony is just amazing,” says Holden.”

The percentage of people who approve of spanking has fallen dramatically in the last 50 years; however, the population of parents who still spank their toddlers on a regular basis is between 70 and 80 percent.

This suggests that as a society, we are practicing behind closed doors what we are ashamed to admit publicly. While most parents spank their children in private, their unwillingness to approve of spanking publicly reveals what they likely already know; spanking is objectively harmful to children:

“In 2002, University of Texas at Austin professor Elizabeth Gershoff decided to look at several decades of past research. She surveyed 88 studies that included 117 tests of the hypothesis that spanking is associated with harmful side effects. Of those tests, 110 showed such effects. Straus calls the 94 percent agreement rate “an almost unprecedented degree of consistency” for scientific research.

As Straus sees it, studies like Gunnoe’s are outliers. If you’re a parent who spanks today, he says, the vast majority of studies show that “over the long term, there are greater odds that your child could become everything you don’t want your child to become — an abuser, a depressed person, a person with temper-control issues.

Studies have shown that spanking decreases grey matter in the brain, and causes a decrease in IQ:

Spanking erodes developmental growth in children and decreases a child’s IQ, a recent Canadian study shows.

This analysis, conducted at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, offers new evidence that corporal punishment causes cognitive impairment and long-term developmental difficulties.”

Recent studies have found that up to 35% of babies were spanked in the last month.

After analyzing data from more than 1,500 families, researchers at Columbia University have found that children who are spanked in early childhood are not only more likely to be aggressive as older children, they are also more likely to do worse on vocabulary tests than their peers who had not been spanked.

A study out of the University of Pittsburgh says yelling at adolescents   can be just as harmful as hitting them. If yelling is harmful to adolescents, how much more harmful is it to a much more sensitive, younger child?

It is quickly becoming clear that children who are being diagnosed with ADHD are actually suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from living in violent homes with violent parents:

Brown was completing her residency at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, when she realized that many of her low-income patients had been diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

These children lived in households and neighborhoods where violence and relentless stress prevailed. Their parents found them hard to manage and teachers described them as disruptive or inattentive.

When Brown looked closely, though, she saw something else: trauma. Hyper-vigilance and dissociation, for example, could be mistaken for inattention. Impulsivity might be brought on by a stress response in overdrive.

Brown’s findings, which she presented in May at an annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies, revealed that children diagnosed with ADHD also experienced markedly higher levels of poverty, divorce, violence, and family substance abuse. Those who endured four or more adverse childhood events were three times more likely to use ADHD medication.

It’s not clear how many children are misdiagnosed with ADHD annually, but a study published in 2010 estimated the number could be nearly 1 million.

Stefan Molyneux sums up the situation perfectly:

“The degree to which the psychiatric community is complicit with abusive parents in drugging non-compliant children is a war crime across the generations, and there will be a Nuremberg at some point in the future”

Child abuse is an absolute, global pandemic:

Six in 10 children aged 2 to 14 are regularly beaten by caregivers.

The report, drawing on data from 190 countries, paints a picture of endemic physical and emotional violence inflicted daily on children, mostly at home and in peacetime rather than on the streets or during war.”

We can no longer look the other way. The state of parenting in the modern world is absolutely abysmal, especially when you factor in all of the harmful effects of public education.

Rebellious children are merely conscientious objectors to an absolutely insane world they’re being introduced into. They must be beaten and drugged into compliance.

To make things worse, multiple studies have shown that young children and infants who are put in daycare for more than 20 hours per week suffer from severe attachment disorders which have long-lasting negative effects on the child. The length of separation is the determining factor, not the quality of care:

“Belsky (1988) determined, after reviewing two longitudinal studies, that infants exposed to more than 20 or more hours per week of child care displayed significantly more avoidance of mother on reunion and were more likely to be classified as insecurely attached than children with less than 20 hours per week of care. This is not surprising since fear, according to Perry, Runyan, and Sturges (1998), is a major impediment to a healthy attachment.

In a recent study (NICHD, 1999), the length of the daily separation appears to be the important determinant of infant-mother interaction. NICHD (1999) found that the breakdown they observed in mother/ child interaction was the result of the long hours of separation, not the type or quality of care.”

The more time a mother spends at work, away from her child, the worse the effects on the child:

“Four- to six-year-olds whose mothers worked a significant number of hours each week tended to exhibit more socio-emotional difficulties and problem behaviors than other peers. Early and extensive maternal employment was the strongest predictor of socio-emotional functioning, exceeding poverty and maternal education. Early and extensive maternal employment was associated with increased behavioral problems, less compliance, and insecurity.”

More devastating effects of putting children in daycare; approximately 40% of children lack a secure attachment with their parents:

“The approximately 40 percent who lack secure attachments are more likely to have poorer language and behavior before entering school. This effect continues throughout the children’s lives, and such children are more likely to leave school without further education, employment or training, the researchers write.”

When the first studies about the harmful effects of BPA on children came out, there was no scientific consensus at all. Some studies were inconclusive, and some showed BPA as harmless. Yet, the mere possibility of harming the endocrine system and healthy development of children caused an absolute frenzy among parents who began demanding BPA-free products en masse.

Now, it’s hard to find plastic cups or food containers that do contain BPA. “BPA free” has become the new standard.

The science backing the harmful effects of spanking on children is as conclusive as you can get, yet parents still disregard it.

Taking a risk with BPA isn’t worth it, but spanking apparently is.

Is Spanking Child Abuse?

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