When I saw the article yesterday, I was intrigued. I am a believer in spankings. I think that spankings done right are one the best tools a parent has in their discipline arsenal. I am also a believer in good research. I was a Psychology major in college and learned quite a bit about research methods and statistics.
So you can understand why this particular article got me up in arms. It hits on several subjects that are close to my heart.
Let me give you an overview of the article.
"Researchers examined data from more than 34,000 adults and found that being spanked significantly increased the risk of developing mental health issues as adults."
The article goes on to claim that physical punishment, aka spanking, is linked to increased risk of depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse. The researchers claim that they exclude harsh physical punishment and abuse.
"We're not talking about just a tap on the bum," study author Tracie Afifi, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, explained in a statement. "We were looking at people who used physical punishment as a regular means to discipline their children." However, the analysis excluded individuals who reported more severe maltreatment such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, or exposure to intimate partner violence."
When you examine the article on it's face value, it really doesn't look good for spanking.
So I took the time to dig a little deeper. I took the time to read the actual study in the Journal of Pediatrics. I found that the researchers actually defined "spanking" as harsh physical punishment which included pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting.
Now, I will be the first to tell you that pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting your child especially out of anger and frustration is a terrible idea, but that is not spanking.
It's not surprising to me that what the researchers call "harsh physical punishment" is connected to emotional disorders and drug and alcohol abuse. Such discipline is often sudden and severe, causing the child to question their security and trust in their parents. Discipline done out of anger (I can't imagine a parent slapping a child in love) only leads to fear and long term emotional problems.
In fact, Colossians 3:21 warns parents to "provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged." (And to think that little piece of truth is being backed up by modern research!)
However, true spankings, based on a Biblical model of discipline, are done out of love, consistently, with proper warnings and explanations. And the Bible promises that proper discipline brings about good results.
He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes
Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell. My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
As permissive parenting is becoming more and more popular in the world, Christians will continue to face ridicule for disciplining and raising their children in the Truth. So next time you read an article that claims all spanking is bad, or someone tells you that all physical punishment is tantamount in abuse. Don't fear. No matter what the research says (or in this case doesn't say) we can trust that the Word of God will never steer us wrong.
*Note: I understand that not all Christian choose to spank their children, and I do believe there are many other forms of discipline (time-out, revoking privileges,
making them eat vegetables) that
work well with different children. I'm not discounting those methods. Each
family has to make their own decision about discipline in their own home. Just
don't base your decision on popular research articles without consulting the
Word of God and getting all your facts straight :)