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Negative effects on physical violence used on children as punishment for undesireable behavior

Posted on December 15, by Emily Hughes Jacob Lee and Matthew Snodgress There is no one individual who influences the development of a child more than the parent.


Parent figures choose the climate which the child will grow up in. Whether that is in regard to family dynamics, intellectual stimulation, or social development. One way parents dictate the development of their child is through discipline. The methods and means of disciplining a child can impact their life socially, behaviorally, and even intellectually. The authoritarian approach is embodied by a disconnect between parent and child.

Discipline for Young Children - Discipline and Punishment: What is the Difference?

It is a relationship of power exercised by the parent over the child, with little mutual understanding or discussion. It encourages strong discipline in the face of any sort of disobedience. It takes the stance that parents have dominion over their child, and thus should exercise parental power over them. The author encourages regular use of corporal punishment with an implement for any offense.

This regular use of violence is not only emotionally and physically traumatizing for the child, it can also result in a form of classical conditioning. As the child is regularly beaten for wrongdoings, they begin to associate the implement being used, or even the voice of their parent with physical and psychological suffering.

  • The situation itself provides the lesson to the child;
  • Why do Parents Spank?
  • Interactions with Culture and Ethnicity There has been considerable research into the relationship between ethnicity, aspects of the parenting and disciplinary environment, and outcomes for children Marshall
  • If we wish to stop a behavior that is already occurring, we can usually do so by simply eliminating the reinforcement for the behavior — a process we call extinction.

Such a strong negative relationship between parent and child results in very unhealthy relationships for the child in the future with peers, other authority figures, and eventually their own children. However, dangers do not only lie in extreme approaches to parenting such as the one described above. Other, more mild examples of parental disciplinary action have also shown to harm the future development of the child socially.

  1. Physical punishment has negative effects on child outcomes, especially if it is harsh, regardless of culture. Maternal depression had the strongest negative effect on attachment security, followed by negative interactions, frequency of spanking and relationship stress.
  2. Since attention is one of the most potent rewards available, and since it is difficult to punish without paying attention to the offender, punishing may serve more as a reward than as a punishment.
  3. The extent of agreement in the research literature on this issue is unusual in the social sciences.
  4. Parents who spank their children rather than using other discipline methods usually say. Corporal punishment does not guarantee a harmful effect, but the more that children experience corporal punishment and the more frequent and severe it is, the more they are at risk for problems like aggression and depression, regardless of their cultural background.
  5. Helps the child learn self-control Can be used with teenagers Builds the child's self-esteem Sets a good example of effective ways to solve problems. You can begin giving choices as soon as the child can experience the consequence of his behavior.

When parents fail to adopt disciplinary practices with their children that are not consistent, the child can develop bad behaviors in adolescence and as adults. Operant conditioning states that reward for good behavior and punishment for bad behavior are both effective means of social development, or discipline. This type of behavior can evolve into adulthood as other addictive behaviors such as gambling. In order to prevent this for the child, a parent must be consistent in their treatment.

The State of Research on the Effects of Physical Punishment

A mixture of reward and punishment are beneficial as long as they remain constant for the child over the long term. Considering each of the four modes of operant conditioning—positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, positive punishment, and negative punishment—not every method alters undesirable behavior in children equally.

In an article from the Global Post, negative reinforcement used to reduce certain behaviors may unintentionally exasperate them Anderson, Consider the following example: In doing so, the parent removes an object to encourage, ultimately, the behavior of eating that food; yet the child now understands that throwing leads to removal of the unwanted food.

Since negative reinforcement encourages a particular behavior, certain contexts, such as this example, can inadvertently cause a child to form inappropriate associations those not intended by the parent. According to Bridget Bentz Sizer in an article titled Seven Tips for Practicing Positive Discipline, positive reinforcement has prolific effects on child behavior regulation Sizer, She maintains that parental attention, time, and verbal encouragement are perhaps the most effective tools in enhancing desirable behaviors; and indeed, children require the acceptance and emotional support of parents or primary caregivers in order to develop properly across various domains cognitive, social, emotional, etc.

Why Punishment Doesn't Work

Sizer reasons further that if the child spends more time behaving desirably, he or she will, consequently, spend less time behaving undesirably. Of course, positive reinforcement cannot sustain positive development without consistency, an aspect of parenting particularly difficult to maintain when all owing relatives, friends, or others temporarily to care for children.

From personal experience, my own parents ensured that I followed consistent rules, such as a consistent bedtime and respectful regard for my elders.

  • Pavlovian conditioning fear Once the strong emotional responses are aroused the degree and direction of generalization is largely uncontrollable;
  • The study involved interviews with mothers involved in a Head Start programme when their infants were 14 months old, and used Q-sort measures of attachment and two questions about spanking from the HOME inventory;
  • Even those who argue in favour of the use of physical punishment as a backup to other disciplinary strategies, such as reasoning and time out, suggest that it is only effective under severely limited conditions as to age of child, severity, timing and context among other things.

I learned that there were predictable features of the world and that my behaviors could evoke consistent effects aligned with these predictable features.

Interestingly, my parents raised my younger sister more permissively, giving her ambiguous bedtimes and little instruction regarding how she should address older relatives. In consequence, her behavior has proved problematic for them since she does not behave consistently herself. As such, the responsibility for her correct behavior however defined is delineated to my parents and, in fact, to the parent of any child and is contingent on consistent, positive reinforcement resulting from an authoritative parenting style.