US report show clear connection between abuse and physical punishment

July 3, 2009

Report on physical punishment in the United States: What research tells us about its effects on children

An extensive report from the Phoenix Children’s Hospital, USA on the effects of physical punishment on children clearly shows connections between physical abuse in later life and physical punishment as a child.

Published last year (2008) the main goal of the report is to provide a concise review of the empirical research to date on the effects physical punishment has on children. It was created for parents and others who care for children, professionals who provide services to them, those who develop policy and programmes that affect children and families, interested members of the public, and children themselves.

The report’s author, Elizabeth T Gershoff, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan, received her doctoral degree in Child Development and worked for five years at the National Centre for Children in Poverty at Columbia University.

Her current research focuses on the impacts of parenting and violence exposure on child and youth development over time and within the contexts of families, schools, neighbourhoods and social policies.

The research supports several conclusions:

– There is little research evidence that physical punishment improves children’s behaviour in the long term.

– There is substantial research evidence that physical punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future.

– There is clear research evidence that physical punishment puts children at risk for negative outcomes, including increased mental health problems.

– There is consistent evidence that children who are physically punished are at greater risk of serious injury and physical abuse.

It also reveals that mounting research evidence shows that physical punishment of children is an ineffective parenting practice comes at a time of decreasing support for physical punishment within the United States and around the world.

The majority of American adults are opposed to physical punishment by school personnel. An increasing number of Americans (now at 29 percent) are opposed to physical punishment by parents. At the same time, there is a growing momentum among other countries to enact legal bans on all forms of physical punishment, bolstered by the fact that the practice has come to be regarded as a violation of international human rights law.

The clear connections between physical abuse and physical punishment that have been made in empirical research and in the child abuse statutes of several states in the US suggest that reduction in parents’ use of physical punishment should be included as integral parts of state and federal child abuse prevention efforts.

Plunket Barnardos Save the Children Unicef Jigsaw Ririki Parents CentrePaediatric Society Womens Refuge Epoch

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