Guy Harrison’s column in your 24 August issue (Spanking Children is wrong) was a thought provoking examination of an important subject – at least, I believe it was meant to be.
I have a great deal of personal respect and admiration for Guy Harrison, however I could not help noticing how one-sided the column was. I personally don’t know any parents who would call any of the acts mentioned in the column ‘spanking’. These acts should rightly be labelled violence against children. Calling these actions spanking (which I define as using a hand to strike a child on the hands or buttocks without causing injury) distracts genuinely concerned parents, parents-to-be or parent-wannabes (I’m somewhere in that last category) from seriously considering whether spanking is appropriate.
Guy did get me thinking though – and maybe that was his point – so I went online and looked up the research he quoted. Dr. Straus’ research is countered by a University of California, Berkeley study by psychologists Diana Baumrind and Elizabeth Owens conducted in 2001.
That study – which used the definition of spanking I quoted above – examined white, middle-class families over a 20-year period. Four to seven per cent of the parents resorted to intense and frequent physical punishment which included violence against their children.
Once these parents were eliminated from the study sample, the researchers found no evidence of behavioral or cognitive problems in children who received an occasional spanking. (See www.child.com/behavior_discipline/spanking.jsp for more information.)
Please understand – I am not necessarily espousing spanking, per se. I am suggesting that parents, parents-to-be and parent-wannabes (hi, me again!) deserve the best and broadest base of information possible. With all due respect, we did not get that in Guy’s column.
Charles D. Bush