“I’m not above a spanking, which people aren’t necessarily into,” Clarkson, mother of daughter River Rose, 3, and son Remington, 1, told a Rochester, N.Y., radio station last week. “And I don’t mean like hitting her hard, I just mean a spanking.”
The American Idol alum further explained her viewpoint: “My parents spanked me, and I did fine in life, and I feel fine about it. … So that’s a tricky thing when you’re out in public, ’cause then people are like, you know, they think that’s wrong or something. But I find nothing wrong with a spanking. … I warn her. I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m gonna spank you on your bottom if you don’t stop right now. Like, this is ridiculous.’”
Clarkson added, “I’m from the South, y’all, so we get spankings. My mom would call the principal, if I ever ended up in the principal’s office, and give permission for her to spank me. … I’m a well-rounded individual with a lot of character, so I think it’s fine.”
According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 64 percent of parents approve of spanking. But what does science say about physical punishment, defined by the American Psychological Association as “spanking, hitting, and other means of causing pain”?
Research conducted by the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, which analyzed 75 different studies, found that spanking was associated with 13 out of 17 negative child behaviors, including poor self-esteem, increased aggression, and “reduced cognitive ability.”
A November study published in the journal Psychological Science found that kids who are spanked by age 5 have more behavioral problems at ages 6 and 8, compared with their peers who have never been spanked. “Our findings suggest that spanking is not an effective technique and actually makes children’s behavior worse, not better,” study author Elizabeth T. Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin said in a press release.
A 2009 study conducted by the University of New Hampshire found that spanked kids scored five points lower on IQ tests than kids who weren’t hit, and 2.8 points lower when tested four years later. “How often parents spanked made a difference. The more spanking, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference,” co-author professor Murray Straus said in a press release.
And the effects of spanking can last throughout life. A University of Michigan study of more than 83,000 people determined that spanking a child can cause depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and attempted suicide in adulthood.
“Spanking is a really, really well-studied area,” Alan Kazdin, a professor of child psychiatry at Yale University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We know that continued spanking — whether it’s moderate or severe — puts kids at risk for criminal behavior, mental disorders, and physical dysfunction.”
He adds, “Continued stress on the body can also change a child’s immune system, and that’s true for kids who grow up in domestic abusive homes, even if they themselves are not hit.”
What’s more, spanking may startle a kid into submission in the moment but on a daily or weekly basis does nothing to improve child’s so-called bad behavior.
“Spanking erodes a child’s trust for a parent and sends the message that home is not a safe space,” Sharon Silver, creator of Proactive Parenting, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Parents often say, ‘Why should I put up with this behavior?’ but children shouldn’t be judged for how they behave at home — that’s where they test behavior they don’t understand. If you remove that safe space, where do they turn?”
She adds, “Many parents call spanking a ‘teachable moment,’ but all it does is task a child to stop a tantrum without coping skills and insist that he or she behave better than the parent.”
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