Corporal Punishment – Low Self Control and Low Self-Esteem

Murray Straus, professor of the University of New Hampshire found that children who were spanked or experienced other corporal punishment are more at risk as teenagers and adults to verbally or physically coerce a partner into having sex.

Straus analyzed a study, International Dating Violence, of more than 14,000 university students at 68 universities in 32 countries. The students were asked if they had been spanked or hit frequently before age 12 and if they had coerced a sexual partner in the previous 12 months. “It’s more evidence that parents should not spank if the wellbeing of their children is at stake,” Straus stated.

The study revealed men who experienced corporal punishment were four times more likely to physically coerce a partner into having sex, than those who had not experienced corporal punishment. Coercion includes holding someone down or hitting them. Women who experienced corporal punishment were also more likely to coerce sex from a partner than those who had not been spanked.

Straus presented the findings at a summit of the American Psychological Association, stated, “People generalize that the use of coercion, physical coercion, is okay. They learn that from people they love and respect – their parents.”

Straus said this study is consistent with other studies, which show corporal punishment leads to low self control and self esteem, as well as aggressiveness, antisocial personalities and the understanding that violence is okay, which may lead to sexual coercion. He emphasized there are alternative ways to discipline children that work better and do not have side effects.

Alice Miller, the most noted psychologist who dedicated her career on child abuse in its many forms, including physical abuse, emotional abuse and child sexual abuse has presented the same results as Straus. Miller studied and wrote about the effects of poisonous pedagogy upon children and lasting into adulthood, and the resulting effects on society as a whole.

Twenty-one states allow corporal punishment in school. In the 2004-2005 school year, 272,028 school children in the U.S. were subjected to physical punishment. This is a significant drop of almost 10%, continuing a steady trend from the early 1980’s. This statistic does not include corporal punishment at home.

The states, which allow corporal punishment are: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania (some school districts banned corporal punishment), Tennessee, Texas, Wyoming.

Study of 8,000 U.S. families, revealed (Straus, M.A. and Yodanis, CL, 1994.) 78% of paddling states achieved below the national average at the fourth grade level in reading. 75% of the paddling states achieved below the national average in eighth grade level reading (Center for Effective Discipline, 2004). Sixty-seven percent of Ohio paddling schools fell in the lowest 25% of schools on state school report cards in the 99-00 school year (Center for Effective Discipline, 2001).

Miller shows, with the help of her research, books, articles, interviews and answers to readers’ mail on her website, that child abuse like beating and humiliation not only produces unhappy and confused children, not only destructive teenagers and abusive parents, but thus also a confused, irrationally functioning society.

Miller sees the roots of worldwide violence in the fact that children are beaten all over the world, especially during their first years, when their brain is being structured. The damages caused by this practice are devastating, but unfortunately the dots are seldom connected by society. The facts are easy to understand: Children are forbidden to defend themselves against the violence done to them, their only recourse is to drive the natural reactions like rage and fear deep into their psyche, and they discharge these strong emotions later as adults against their own children or whole nations. Miller illustrates this dynamic in her books by using not only her case histories but also her numerous studies on the biographies of dictators and famous artists. The avoidance of this issue in all societies known to her reveals that extremely irrational behavior, brutality, sadism and other perversions can be produced completely undisturbed in families (which reclaim their right to “discipline” their children and that the products can be regarded as “genetically conditioned.” Alice Miller believes that only through becoming aware of this dynamic can we break the chain of violence, she devoted her life-work to this enlightenment.

Alice Miller developed a concept of therapy that suggests we need to confront ourselves with our history and to acknowledge and thus reduce the still unconscious, but highly active fear of the formerly internal beaten child. When we succeed to eventually feel our justified, angry and indignation instead of denying it, we can become autonomous and free to choose how we live our lives-unshackled by religious rhetoric or family tradition. . Because it is this childhood fear of the abusive parents which drives adults to abuse their own children, as well as to live with severe illnesses rather than to take seriously the once endured cruelties. Countless esoteric and “religious” offers serve to obscure the pain resulting from the torture once undergone, yet fully denied.

Miller believes that her discovery, despite its tragic aspects, contains actually very optimistic options because it opens the door to consciousness, to the awareness of childhood reality and thus to the liberation of its destructive consequences. She understands her search for the reality of childhood as a sharp opposition to psychoanalysis which, in her opinion, remains in the old tradition of blaming the child and protecting the parents. For this reason, Miller renounced her membership to the International Psychoanalytical Association in 1988.

Alice Miller’s work reveals:

o Poor children, minorities, children with disabilities and boys are hit more frequently in schools, sometimes at 2-5 times the rate of other children.

o Academic achievement is a risk factor in the use of corporal punishment of children.

o Significantly more school shooting deaths were found in states allowing school corporal punishment than those who do not.

o School violence has not increased since paddling use has declined. Violent crime in schools has declined dramatically since 1994. The annual rate of serious violent crime in 2003 (6 per 1,000 students) was less than half of the rate in 1994.

o There is overwhelming evidence that harsh interventions are damaging to children, both emotionally and physically. The effects of such trauma may be compounded when a child has preexisting learning difficulties. When schools respond to these challenges using harsh methods, children can be further traumatized.

o School corporal punishment is more widely used in states in the south and southwest and in rural districts rather than urban and suburban districts.

o Corporal punishment has been abolished in more than 100 nations of the world, but not the U.S.

o Corporal punishment teaches children that violence is an acceptable way to solve problems. Research shows that this message is taught to those who inflict pain, those who receive it, and those who witness it.

o Corporal punishment of children is related to decreased internalization of moral rules, increased aggression, more antisocial behavior, increased criminality, decreased mental health outcomes, increased adult abusive behaviors, and increased risk of being victimized by abusive relationships in adulthood.

o Corporal punishment reinforces physical aggression as an acceptable and effective means of eliminating unwanted behavior in our society.

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