Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Beating children causes more harm than good, new evidence suggests

Published:Tuesday | November 6, 2018 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin/Gleaner Writer
Kaysia Kerr
Floyd Green, state minister for youth, addresses students at the National Child Month Committee ‘Children Need Our Love and Protection’ Youth Forum, AFFIRM ME. The forum was held at the St Andrew Parish Church Hall last Friday.

Frustration is the main reason that drives caregivers to beat their children, an ongoing study by the National Parenting Support Commission (NPSC) has found.

Additionally, an updated policy that was released yesterday by the American Academy of Paediatrics showed that beating children can lead to aggression, brain changes, substance abuse and suicidal behaviour in adulthood.

This is why Kaysia Kerr, chief executive officer of the NPSC, is convinced that corporal punishment is just a futile, repetitive cycle that produces little or no development in children.

In an interview with The Gleaner in recognition of Parent and Youth Month, the NPSC head said she was aware that a lot of work is needed to change some cultural norms and practices, but stressed that it was a feat her organisation was prepared to embark on.

"We have developed a survey instrument that we will be using in our workshops and our community engagements to get from parents their view on corporal punishment, and that will be collated. However, anecdotally, there are parents who are telling us that they beat out of frustration. They can't cope, or the children are not listening to them," Kerr said.




She also pointed out that there was some ignorance as to behaviours that should be expected from different age groups.

"Some of the boundaries you would put in place for a younger child, you don't expect to put that in place for a teenager. Teenagers are almost out the door, they are at a transitioning period where they are entering into adulthood," she shared.

"When you probe the things that are frustrating them (parents), that should not be frustrating them, it's because they don't know better. You can't expect that a young child should not play; children must play."

In the meantime, the American Academy of Paediatrics said that research since its 1998 discipline policy led to the updated version. In the new paper, it cautioned against spanking, noting that it is falling out of favour among parents, especially those with young children.

The paper also said that while some parents still believe that beating can lead to short-term improvements in behaviour, studies show that spanking is no more effective than non-physical punishment, including timeouts, setting firm limits and establishing consequences for their actions.

"Although many children who were spanked become happy, healthy adults, current evidence suggests that spanking is not necessary and may result in long-term harm," the academy advised.

It also warned against harsh verbal abuse, including shaming kids, citing research that links this with depression and behaviour problems in teens.