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wzzm13.com (WZZM-TV), Grand Rapids, Michigan, 6 January 2010
Study: Spanking may not be all bad for children
By Lambrini Lukidis
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) - Many experts advise against physical discipline, but Calvin College Psychology professor Marjorie Gunnoe says her research shows spanking may not be all bad.
"The group that was never spanked did not look better," said Gunnoe.
Gunnoe surveyed 179 teens in the continental U.S. According to Gunnoe's findings, those who were spanked as young children even thrived as young adults.
"The group spanked only between 2 and 6 looked the best adjusted on most of the measures."
Depression and early sexual activity were just some of the indicators used in the study. Kids spanked between 7 and 11 had slightly higher rates of aggression.
"But they also had the highest rate of academic achievement and they had the highest rates of volunteer work," said Gunnoe.
But the research has other implications.
"This research is not a green light to say parents should spank their children more. This research should be viewed as a red light to law makers who are hearing that spanking is always bad and it should be outlawed," Gunnoe said.
Gunnoe added that data shows most parents do spank.
"The story you're hearing from academics is different than the story on the street."
Random teens on the streets of downtown Grand Rapids say they are better off having been spanked.
"We were always talked to afterwards, what we did wrong, why we got spanked," said Kamy Zwak.
"They're angry, but they are not beating us. They are doing it out of love," said Andrea Kooienga.
RELATED VIDEO CLIP
TV news report (2 minutes 10 seconds) on the above story, including an interview with the author of the report, and a vox pop with teenagers in Grand Rapids who seem to approve of the fact that they got spanked.
HERE IS THE CLIP:
IMPORTANT: Copyright in this video material rests with the original copyright holders. This brief excerpt is reproduced under the "fair use" doctrine for private, non-profit, historical research and education purposes only. It must not be redistributed or republished in any commercial context.
The Wall Street Journal, New York, 22 January 2010
Opinion: Houses of Worship
Spare the Spanking, Spoil the Report Card?
By Mollie Ziegler Hemingway
Prior to becoming the devout, busybody next-door neighbor on the animated hit "The Simpsons," Ned Flanders was an out-of-control brat whose beatnik parents didn't believe in discipline. To reform Ned, a child psychologist enrolled him in the University of Minnesota Spankalogical Protocol, which included eight months of continuous spanking. It cured his rambunctiousness and set him on the path to becoming the cartoon world's most famously pious Christian.
Indeed, conservative Christian parenting is often unfairly presented as little more than "spare the rod, spoil the child," advice distilled from the Bible's book of Proverbs. Spanking -- punishment delivered with an open hand, not a rod -- used to be socially acceptable and frequently utilized by parents, even in public. But at some point in the past century, child-rearing books began discouraging spanking and encouraging such new proverbs as "let's all take a 'timeout' so that our anger might melt away, leading to fruitful conversation, peace and harmony in the home."
Some parents have taken the advice to such an extreme that they're hesitant to impose any consequences at all on their children. These include the helicopter parents who monitor their children's every move and the lawnmower parents who mow down any obstacle in their children's path. They, in turn, have spawned a backlash movement of free-range parents who encourage their children to roam freely and slacker parents (see the books "Bad Mother" and "The Three-Martini Playdate") who brag about who's been the most neglectful. It's a parenting free-for-all.
Those parents who still use physical discipline keep it on the down-low. That's not just because spanking is no longer politically correct but because some lawmakers are attempting to ban even the most benign swat. Massachusetts and California successfully resisted attempts to ban spanking in 2007, but some 25 countries -- from Austria to Venezuela -- have banned any and all corporal punishment. Antispanking advocates say that physical discipline isn't just immoral but also detrimental to a child's long-term adjustment.
Yet a new study by Calvin College's Marjorie Gunnoe found no evidence to support the claim. In fact, it found that those adolescents who were spanked as young children actually ended up having a sunnier outlook and were better students than those who were never spanked.
Compared with those who had never experienced physical discipline, those who endured parental swats between the ages of 2 and 6 were much more likely to report positive academic records and optimism about their future. Even those who received their last spanking between the ages of 7 and 11 reported that they volunteered more, compared with those who had never been spanked. In fact, the never-spanked group never scored the best on any of the 11 behavioral variables analyzed. According to Prof. Gunnoe, her research, which was based on surveys of 183 adolescent children, doesn't provide answers to parents as to how they should discipline so much as undermine the rationale for banning spanking.
But it does speak to the importance of a balanced approach to physical discipline. The group that had the worst overall social adjustment was made up of children who were spanked into their teenage years.
So often spanking is utilized according to the Ned Flanders model -- all or nothing. And religious adherents are on both ends of the punishment spectrum. One controversial discipline manual that purports to offer Christian parenting guidance, "To Train Up a Child," suggests training children as the Amish train mules. According to the book, infants are to be lashed when they reach out for forbidden objects of desire. On the other hand, groups such as ParentingInJesusFootsteps.org argue against any physical discipline because it's not mentioned in the Beatitudes, Golden Rule or parable of the Prodigal Son. The United Methodist Church passed two antispanking resolutions in 2004, arguing that Jesus wouldn't approve.
While all these groups may appeal to the Bible, the Scriptures are actually much more nuanced about parental discipline.
Sure, the "spare the rod" instruction is Bible-based, though not a word-for-word quotation. And there are many more passages that likewise encourage correction, discipline and, if called for, physical punishment. Many of the Proverbs are focused on telling children to listen to their parents and telling parents to not give up on discipline, lest the children end up dead or imprisoned.
The passages aren't ending up on greeting cards anytime soon, but they do have the ring of truth: "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child"; "For whom the Lord loves He corrects"; "Chasten your son while there is hope"; and "Withhold not correction from the child."
While the rod passages get all the attention, that's not all the Bible says about correction. In his letter to the Ephesians, for instance, St. Paul reminds kids to obey parents. But he adds, "Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath." In Colossians, fathers are told, "Provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." In First Thessalonians, the greatest affection is compared with the care a mother gives her own children, and Christians are routinely encouraged to be humble, gentle, forbearing and -- most important of all -- forgiving in all their relationships.
Clearly the Spankalogical Protocol would not pass biblical muster.
But with emerging research showing that spanked children compare favorably to those who were never spanked, it is time to stop pushing spanking bans. By the same token, those attempting to follow a biblical model of discipline should remember to balance out punishment with heavy doses of gentleness and forgiveness.
Ms. Hemingway is a writer in Washington.
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