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Kim Workman:The Smacking Debate Confused

Kim Workman:The Smacking Debate Confused

“The smacking debate is becoming confused” said Kim Workman, Director, Rethinking Crime and Punishment. He was responding to Family First’s media release that research by Marjorie Gunnoe, of Calvin College, Michigan shows that kids smacked before age 6 grow up to be more successful.“It is always dangerous to comment on research that one hasn’t read. But in her interview with the New York Daily News, (4th January) Gunnoe said “I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but then there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You don’t use it for all your jobs.”

“It would seem therefore that Gunnoe does not approve of ‘light smacking’ as part of the parenting repertoire, whereas Mr McCoskrie cites earlier Duke University research which showed that if a culture views spanking as the normal consequence for bad behavior, kids aren't damaged by its occasional use because parents are less agitated and more consistent.”

“In the same NY Daily News interview, Tracy Dennis, associate professor of psychology at Hunter College, said that smacking was generally ineffective,” She explains. “I wouldn’t want parents to misinterpret these findings and think it’s okay to spank a child.”

“Most parents spank young kids to keep them safe,” Dennis explained. “A parent may slap a toddler’s hand if they touch a hot stove, or spank a child who runs into the street. In that context, she says, a smack can be considered a way to keep a child out of danger or to assert parental authority, she says.”

“As a child grows older, parents may resort to spanking as a kind of default”, Dennis says. “I suspect that these parents don’t have much of a repertoire of parenting strategies, or maybe those children have behavior problems so the parents are more inclined to smack them,” she says. “Smacking just makes things worse.” And, she adds, “When a child is spanked when a parent loses control in an aggressive, fear-inducing way, this models aggression for the child and starts a cycle of violence in that child.” Kim Workman says “Our interest in this debate is centred around the impact of persistent smacking on offending behaviour. We have not made any public comment until now. But Dennis’s comments certainly accord with our experience. Persistent smacking, even if light, equates to poor parenting. Moreover, it signals to the child that their parents don’t love them. A recent UK study of 1,396 male prisoners with serious personality disorders, showed that if they were persistently smacked as children, and parents withdrew affection, it was a major contributing factor to their condition. It is fairly clear that smacking of children should be a last resort, and as one of the exceptions provided for in the current legislation.”

ENDS

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