Harvard University’s latest research: spanking children, “injury” children’s brains

  In recent years, parents may be less and less spanking unruly children. Because science shows that this may not be the best form of punishment for children. A 2016 “Family Psychology” report stated that spanking is not effective in improving children’s problem behaviors, and it is known to increase the likelihood of 13 different harmful results.
  A new study provides yet another reason to avoid this type of corporal punishment. Spanking may cause more severe effects on the children’s brain, the same brain area as sexual abuse.
  Researchers at the Harvard Graduate School of Education said that previous studies have found links between spanking and children’s behavior problems, aggression, depression, and anxiety. They want to study the underlying mechanisms related to brain development and whether spanking has an effect on the neurobiological level, which may explain how corporal punishment affects children’s behavior and cognitive development.
Spanking, “injury” in the brain

  The study, published in the journal Child Development, used functional magnetic resonance imaging to map the brain changes of 147 adolescents who had never experienced physical or sexual abuse. Researchers tracked the parts of the children’s brain that activate in response to neutral or fearful facial expressions. When an actor made a scary expression on the display screen, the brains of children who had been spanked had greater responses in multiple areas of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) than children who had not been beaten. These areas are responsible for responding to environmental cues, identifying threats and reacting to them. Spanking children may change their brain development in a similar way to more serious forms of abuse. It triggers areas in their brains involved in threat perception and directly changes their decision-making. Changes in brain development may affect the children’s future. Serious impact.
  Speaking of the impact of spanking on the brain, it may be more serious than you think. Severe physical punishment: including spanking, has been shown to reduce the amount of gray matter in the adolescent’s brain. Gray matter is the connective tissue between brain cells and is essential for the normal development and function of the brain. It plays a very important role in many brain-based functions, including emotion, senses, intelligence, learning ability, language, muscle control and memory. This suggests that children with less gray matter may struggle with these important functions and ultimately struggle in their lives.
  Researchers say these changes are the same as more serious abuse or domestic violence. This shows that for children’s brains, it is more of a difference in degree than a difference in type. This is all violence.
  This is an important finding because many parents don’t consider spanking to be violent. Vincent J. Parucci, a pediatrician and editor-in-chief of Child Abuse, said, “We want to raise happy and healthy children. And many parents who spanked their children felt that it was for the good of their children.”

Spanking in America

  Since Sweden became the first country to ban corporal punishment in 1979, 62 countries in the world have made corporal punishment illegal. Although the United States does not have such protective measures, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association have both condemned this practice. The acceptance of spanking seems to be shrinking. In the United States, the percentage of parents who spanked their children is on the decline. In 1993, 50% of interviewed parents said they had spanked their children, but by 2017, this number had dropped to 35%. The number is still high, but it is a promising trend.
  However, a 2019 study showed that half of American parents have spanked their children within a year, and one-third have spanked their children within a week. Although pediatricians and neurologists call for this practice to stop, it seems that many American parents still don’t take it seriously.
  Although parents may not want to hurt their children, we need to understand that spanking may be as bad as some things we will never do to children.
  VS discipline punishment
  for some parents, it may be necessary to change the thinking, the distinction between discipline and punishment. Discipline can change behavior, teach positive behavior, empathy, and basic social skills. But this is different from punishment. Punishment is to make someone feel painful or ashamed. We must treat spanking as punishment rather than discipline.
  This can be difficult, especially for adults who were spanked when they were young. They may think that since their results are good, spanking must also be good. But this study does not show that every child who is spanked will have these difficulties, it just shows that it may happen, and it can be compared with smoking. We all know that some people smoke, but they are healthy, but this does not mean that smoking is a good thing. Individual cases are not enough to understand whether certain experiences are good or bad.
  This study also has limitations because it is impossible to quantify the severity of children being spanked, and children’s self-reports may make the study prone to errors. But this is like the advice that pregnant women accept about taking medication. If it is not specifically tested during pregnancy, then any amount cannot be considered safe. There is currently no research that says how much spanking is harmful, so we must think that any number has this possibility.