Friday, September 3, 2010


This article on  spanking habits puts it differently than I would. It says "spanking children who misbehave has been a source of debate among child development researchers." I think that's like saying there is debate about evolution among biologists. A quick look through found one study that said only some kids are made more aggressive by spanking, and the other 20 said it is a general thing. As I said the other day, people vary.

This particular article was talking about spanking in North and South Carolina, where it says 80% of 3 to 5s get spanked. Overall, they found a decrease in spanking by hand over 30  years, but an increase over 7 years in spanking with an object.

Why do parents spank preschoolers more than other kids? The study authors say, "Kids between 3 and 5, they lie, they cheat, they steal," he said. "They do things to test their limits because they're figuring out the world," and sometimes parents just lose it.

Most parents who do spank their kids do it in anger, he says, not as a calculated tool of discipline. One group disagrees:

"It can be done in a right way and a wrong way," said Brittany Farrell, assistant policy director at the N.C. Family Policy Council, which supports corporal discipline as a tool parents should have. "I think that's an important distinction to be made because the point of the discipline is to teach."
I was about to make a broad statement about people who beat their kids, maybe with some southern slur, but I've begun to think it is related to my ideas about Jane Jacobs' moral syndromes, where she and I divide people into basically liberals and conservatives based on what kinds of acts they view as honorable or dishonorable. I would predict that people who spank their kids are firmly in the guardian moral syndrome and are more likely to be conservative and Republican than liberal and Democrat.

The problem with this, you see, is that I think spanking is almost always useless or harmful and often both. While some kids would not be harmed by it (see: People vary), you can't tell which ones, so spanking kids is a dumb thing to do. One might say, but it makes you feel better smacking the kid. Well, it doesn't make me feel better, so I feel a little moral superiority to someone it does make feel better.

But all this is in the brains of the grown-ups. Conservatives and spankers and liberals and non-spankers all act as they do because of the synapses that fire in their brains. They spank because their brain makes them.

So we non-spankers can't hold it against them when they smack their kids. We can try to stop it, because it seems wrong to us. We can try public awareness campaigns, as we did with putting infants to sleep on their backs. We can try moral suasion, as we did with drunk driving. We can pass laws against it, as we have done with smoking in certain places. But we're not going to stop spanking until we cure conservatism.

The study found that 80% of households in North and South Carolina spanked their preschoolers. I wonder what the percentage is in San Francisco?

No comments:

Post a Comment