One for the pro-smackers in the house
Why kids who get spanked have lower IQs
The debate over spanking goes back many years, but the essential question often evades discussion: does spanking actually work? In the short term, yes. You can correct immediate misbehavior with a slap or two on the rear-end or hand. But what about the long-term impact? Can spanking lead to permanent, hidden scars on children years later?On Friday, a sociologist from the University of New Hampshire, Murray Straus, presented a paper at the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, suggesting that corporal punishment does leave a long-lasting mark — in the form of lower IQ. Straus, who is 83 and has been studying corporal punishment since 1969, found that kids who were physically punished had up to a five-point lower IQ score than kids who weren't — the more children were spanked, the lower their IQ — and that the effect could be seen not only in individual children, but across entire nations. Among 32 countries Straus studied, in those where spanking was accepted, the average IQ of the survey population was lower than in nations where spanking was rare, the researcher says.
This week's Time examines the debate around corporal punishment, arguing that smacking your children may stunt their cognitive development. While Straus' study cannot under any circumstances be seen as conclusive due to the number of variable factors in the broader environment of the children it examines, it does support other studies which signal that smacking can impact on a child's ability to learn.
Such findings are not surprising: we know from adults that the impact of violence can lead to stunted emotional growth and conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder. It is hardly extrapolating to imagine that children, while unable to articulate their emotions/pain to the same level as adults, might suffer a similar impact from this violence. Straus' study reveals the social acceptability and frequency of such violence: roughly three-quarters had been disciplined through corporal punishment in the last two weeks. Perhaps someone should show these statistics to the US religious conservative group Focus on Family group who funded the "vote no" smacking referendum campaign in NZ to the tune of $1 million.
The arguments that the pro-smacking lobby provide in New Zealand for harming our children simply do not stack up. You can't smack another adult just because you are frustrated, so why should you need to smack your children? There are better ways to discipline children that teaching them that violence is the resolution to problems. Thankfully, despite his posturing to the conservatives, section 59 looks set to stay as it is under a Key Government. Let's hope Act's John Boscawen doesn't get too much leverage in his campaign to build on parent's fears to make smacking the status quo again.