New Delhi: While the old adage of ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ has already fallen out of favour with most ideas of modern parenting and education systems, a study has found further proof of the futility of corporal punishment for children.
According to the comprehensive study published in The Lancet journal Monday, physical punishment does not have any positive impact on children and instead increases behavioural problems over time.
An international group of scientists looked at studies involving physical punishment such as spanking, but excluded any behaviours that could be constituted as child physical abuse. The review looked at 69 studies, most of which were from the US.
According to the study, physical punishment, as a response to children’s perceived misbehaviour, is used by parents and guardians in many parts of the world. The researchers suggested that 63 per cent of children between the ages of 2 and 4 worldwide — approximately 250 million children — are regularly subjected to physical punishment by caregivers.
The research provides support to a 2006 United Nations statement by the Committee on the Rights of the Child that recommended countries end the use of all types of physical punishment on children.
Sixty-two countries (such as Italy and Japan) have banned the practice, which is increasingly seen as a form of violence.
In India, while corporal punishment is banned in schools (under Section 17 of the RTE Act, 2009), there are as yet no laws specifically against physical punishment of children by parents, though there are laws against assault and cruelty to children.
“There is no evidence that physical punishment is good for children. All the evidence indicates that physical punishment is harmful to children’s development and well-being,” Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor at The University of Texas at Austin and senior author of the study, said in a statement.
The team found that physical punishment was not associated with any positive outcomes for children and increased the risk of children experiencing severe violence or neglect.
Negative outcomes associated with physical punishment, such as behavioural problems, occurred irrespective of the child’s sex, race, or ethnicity and regardless of the overall parenting styles of the caregivers. The magnitude of negative outcomes for children increased with the frequency of physical punishment.
“Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior,” Gershoff said.
“Unfortunately for parents who hit, our research found clear and compelling evidence that physical punishment does not improve children’s behaviour and instead makes it worse,” she added.
Gershoff had previously authored a landmark 2016 meta-analysis of dozens of studies and found that physical punishment was not associated with any positive outcomes for children and was heavily associated with a variety of negative outcomes.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)