Posted Nov. 15, 2005 – To spank or not to spank? For many parents, that is the question.
When used sparingly, is spanking a necessary and effective way to discipline a child? Or is it a violation of the rights of the child and the first step toward abuse?
About 65 percent of American parents approve of spanking children, a rate that has been steady since 1990, according to a recent ABC News poll.
Research shows that some parents believe that sparing the rod only cultivates a brat.
But the notion of whipping a child into submission makes others wince.Spanking, they say, is an act of violence against society's most vulnerable members.
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Why Spanking is Wrong
A 1998 study by the University of New Hampshire found that corporal punishment can lead to behavior like cheating, lying, disobedience and deliberately destruction.
The study also found that children who were spanked had an average IQ of about 98, while children who were spared the switch averaged about 102.
Scott and Tamra Lichtman of Stamford, Conn., have two children: 5-year-old Eli and 3-year-old Kayla. They told ABC News that they were not spanked as children, and do not believe in spanking their own kids.
"There are other ways to discipline," Scott told “Good Morning America.” Spanking a child teaches them that physical aggression is OK, he said.
His wife agreed.
"I think my role is to model the behavior I want my children to use," Tamra said. "Spanking them only escalates the situation and makes it worse."
Not everybody agrees, however.
Spanking Can be a Good Thing
Some experts say that mild, non-abusive spanking can be an effective reinforcement of discipline, particularly with defiant 2- to 6-year-olds.
Jim and Becky Kronk of Columbus, Ohio, who have three children – C.J., 7, Ryan, 5, and Rachel, 3 – support spanking, as long as it is done after using careful judgment. Both parents say they were spanked when they were children.
"It was the threat of getting in trouble that scared me," Jim told ABC News. He acknowledged that violence begets violence and said he spanks his own children infrequently, in cases where they might harm themselves or one another. He says it is worse not to intervene at all.
Becky said she feels guilty about spanking her children but sometimes finds it is necessary to at least squeeze the children's arm when they do wrong.
"I'm embarrassed to do it," she said. "But I do it in the heat of the moment."
Meanwhile, research shows that some parents believe spanking is OK because of religious traditions, referring to the book of Proverbs in the Bible, in which it states in Chapter 13 and verse 24, "He who spares his rod (of discipline) hates his son, but he who loves him diligently disciplines and punishes him early."
Elizabeth Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty said that one positive result of spanking is that children quickly comply with parental demands. And she cautions that her findings do not imply all children who are spanked turn out to be aggressive or delinquent.
Several major national organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have taken an official stand against corporal punishment.
Gershoff stopped short of endorsing a legal ban on spanking, saying the United States was unlikely to emulate a group of European countries in taking that step. Eleven countries, including Sweden, Italy, Israel and Germany, ban spanking.
Where do you stand on the issue? Is spanking necessary? Choose a side, and then take our poll.