The American Academy of Pediatrics is coming out strongly against the use of spanking, calling for a ban on corporal punishment. It also now says that “harsh verbal discipline,” including shaming and humiliation, is harmful to a child’s developing brain.
The AAP announced today that it will update its 20-year-old “guidance for effective discipline,” which stated that “corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents be encouraged and assisted in the development of methods other than spanking for managing undesired behaviour”.
The new statement goes further, clearly outlining that spanking is more than simply limiting in its effectiveness. It actually is both ineffective and harmful:
Corporal punishment and harsh verbal abuse may cause a child to be fearful in the short term but does not improve behaviour over the long term and may cause more aggressive behaviours, according to the AAP. In one study, young children who were spanked more than twice a month at age 3 were more aggressive at age 5. Those same children at age 9 still exhibited negative behaviours and lower receptive vocabulary scores, according to the research.
Research has shown that striking a child, yelling at or shaming them can elevate stress hormones and lead to changes in the brain’s architecture. Harsh verbal abuse is also linked to mental health problems in preteens and adolescents.
“The good news is, fewer parents support the use of spanking than they did in the past,” said Dr. Robert D. Sege, a past member of AAP Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect and an author of the policy statement. “Yet corporal punishment remains legal in many states, despite evidence that it harms kids—not only physically and mentally, but in how they perform at school and how they interact with other children.”
It is more effective to use discipline methods that are calm and controlled, such as by setting clear rules and expectations, being consistent and rewarding positive behaviour, the statement says.