Smacking Children As A Form Of Punishment Should Be Illegal, Say UK Experts

If it doesn't work, and the literature increasingly finds that it causes long-term psychological harm, then don't do it. fasphotographic/Shutterstock

Robin Andrews 12 Sep 2018, 13:14

Whether it’s called spanking or smacking, the act of punishing children in this manner is increasingly being viewed by researchers as a bad, or at least unwise, move. In line with this reasoning, the UK Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) has recently tabled a motion to the ongoing Trade Union Congress Conference in Manchester to make this form of retribution illegal.

Per BBC News, they emphasize that smacking is an ineffective form of behavioral control because no solid study shows an improvement in behavior post-punishment. They also stress that it’s damaging to the minds of young adults and children.

John Drewicz, an AEP national executive committee member, will tell the conference that “smacking is harmful to a child's mental health. It models aggressive behavior and it says to them that it is okay to use violence.” The largest teaching union in the UK, the National Education Union, is also backing the motion.

Several parts of the UK, like Wales and Scotland, are in the process of enacting legislative measures that will make smacking children either harder to engage in legally or entirely outlawed. In dozens of other countries, from Brazil to Iceland, Spain to Sweden, it’s already illegal.

Evidence has accumulated over the past few decades that punishing children through the use of a degree of physical violence is psychologically harmful.

This study, for example, suggests that they’re more likely to have developmental delays, whereas this one links it to violent future relationships. Another links harsh corporal punishment in young adults to a reduced amount of the brain’s gray matter in later life.

Associations with low self-esteem, heightened aggression, anti-social behaviors, and reduced cognitive aptitudes are often seen among the data.

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