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Corporal Punishment, Spanking, and Shaming Officially on the Naughty List

by Alexa Bigwarfe
Contributing writer

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has released a new policy statement taking a strong stance against using spanking, yelling, or shaming children as forms of discipline. There is little evidence to indicate these types of punishment are actually effective tools of discipline, but more evidence is linking corporal punishment to worsened behavior and other negative outcomes in cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional results.


Dr. Jennifer Shu, pediatrician and author of Baby and Child Health: The Essential Guide from Birth to 11 Years, and Dr. Robert Sage, one of the authors of the updated policy Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children, presented the findings of the AAP.  Shu said there is more evidence that spanking is causing more damage to children. "We know that the brain does not grow and develop as well once there has been physical punishment to the point where it can cause learning problems and problems with vocabulary and memory, as well as aggressive behavior," Shu said.


But it’s not just spanking that causes damage to children. Shu continues on that verbal reprimands can be just as detrimental to a child’s well-being. "Anything that's verbally abusive in addition to being physically abusive can change the brain architecture," Shu said. Spanking, yelling and shaming elevate stress hormones. "Basically, these are adverse childhood events that can cause toxic stress and lead to health problems as well as emotional problems as a child reaches the preteen and teen years."


Physical punishment and verbal abuse may cause an immediate fear reaction that redirects a child’s behavior, but does not result in overall improved behavior, and, in fact, may result in more aggressive behavior. Shu encourages parents instead to reward good behavior and also stick to consistent expectations of behavior. Set up rules and expectations early on and then follow through with those consistently. Focus on teaching children right from wrong.


In response to the often-heard argument from many parents that they were spanked as kids and turned out just fine, Shu compares it to changes in car seat requirements.


"There weren't any car seats, for example, when I grew up, [and] we turned out fine — those of us who lived to tell about it," Shu said. "But now that we have safety information and car seats, we do recommend that everybody use them all the time."

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Tags: Health, Infant & Baby, Maternity, Parenting, Safety, Toddler

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