Spanking your child can affect brain development, the Harvard study warns


Hitting your child can affect their brain development by altering neural responses to their environment, a new study warns.

Researchers at Harvard University examined the effects of blows, known as corporal punishment, on the brains of 147 children.

They found that it can affect a child’s brain development in ways similar to “more severe forms of violence” and assault.

Children who were spanked had a greater neural response in multiple regions of the prefrontal cortex (PFC), including in regions that are part of what is known as the ‘salience network’ (SN).

These regions respond to signals in the environment that often have consequences, such as a threat, and that can influence decision-making and processing of situations.

Smacking is legal in the US, while in the UK, Scotland, corporal punishment of children will be completely banned in 2020, and Wales to follow in 2020.

In England, however, a “reasonable chastisement” defense allows parents to legally beat their child unless it causes bruises, scrapes, scrapes, minor swellings or cuts.

This defense has been criticized because it basically means that children can be beaten if it doesn’t leave evidence.

This may mean that parents target areas that do not leave a mark, such as the head, potentially causing even more serious injuries that cannot be easily detected.

Smacking can change a child's neural responses to their environment in the same way that a child experiences more severe violence (stock photo compiled by models)

Smacking can change a child’s neural responses to their environment in the same way that a child experiences more severe violence (stock photo compiled by models)

What the law says

Beating a child as a form of chastisement is illegal in several countries around the world, such as France, Scotland and Sweden.

In England it is illegal for a parent or guardian to beat their child, except when it amounts to ‘reasonable punishment’.

The defense of a reasonable penalty is invalid where the penalty “amounts to injury, actual bodily harm, serious bodily harm, or child abuse.”

In the US, it is legal to beat a child in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but states differ widely on exactly what is allowed.

Law enforcement often depends on prosecutors’ discretion.

An NSPCC spokesperson said: “There is clear evidence that physical punishment harms the well-being of children and is linked to worse outcomes in childhood and adulthood.

“We encourage parents to use alternative methods of teaching their children the difference between right and wrong, with a positive parenting approach, such as setting clear and consistent boundaries.”

The new research from the Harvard team builds on existing studies showing increased activity in certain areas of the brains of children who experience abuse in response to threat cues.

“We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavioral problems and other mental health problems, but many people view spanking as a form of violence,” said study author Katie A. McLaughlin at the department. psychology from Harvard.

‘In this research we wanted to investigate whether there was an impact of hitting on a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain develops.’

McLaughlin and her colleagues analyzed data from a large study of children between the ages of three and eleven.

They focused on 147 children aged around 10 and 11 who had been beaten, with the exception of children who had also experienced more severe forms of violence.

Map shows the countries that have banned all forms of corporal punishment against children (marked in red).  Wales will follow in 2022

Map shows the countries that have banned all forms of corporal punishment against children (marked in red).  Wales will follow in 2022

Map shows the countries that have banned all forms of corporal punishment against children (marked in red). Wales will follow in 2022

Smacking ‘makes your child less intelligent’

Hitting children hinders their intelligence, previous research suggests.

Beaten youths have IQs that are several points lower than those whose parents are merely protesting, a 2009 study found.

University of New Hampshire researcher Murray Straus, who has dedicated his career to studying the effects of corporal punishment, said that talking to children promotes brain development.

Physical punishment, on the other hand, can leave young people in a state of fear, hindering their ability to learn.

DrStraus said, “The less corporal punishment applied by a parent, the more verbal interaction is required to educate and correct the child.

Being hit or beaten is a frightening and threatening event that children experience as very stressful. Anxiety and stress can lead to incognitive deficits. ‘

Dr. Straus, whose books include Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effects on Children, called for legislation on smacking in the US before his death in 2016.

Each child was in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) device, which uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the inside of the body.

While doing so, they looked at a computer screen with various images of actors making ‘frightened’ and ‘neutral’ faces.

A scanner recorded the child’s brain activity in response to each type of face, and the images were analyzed to determine whether the faces caused different patterns of brain activity in children who were spanked compared to those who were not.

“Across the sample, anxious faces caused more activation on average than neutral faces in many areas of the brain,” say the researchers in their paper, published in the journal. Child development

“Children who were spanked showed greater activation in multiple regions of PFC to fearful versus neutral faces than children who were never spanked.”

Researchers believe the study is a first step toward further analysis of the possible effects of spanking on children’s brain development.

“While we may not think of corporal punishment as a form of violence, in terms of how a child’s brain responds, it’s not all that different from abuse,” McLaughlin said.

“We hope that this finding can encourage families not to adopt this strategy, and that it can open people’s eyes to the potential negative consequences of corporal punishment in ways they have not thought of before.”

Parents and policymakers should work to reduce corporal punishment, the researchers add.

The argument against criminalizing smacking seems to stem from concerns about increasing state interference in family life.

Campaigners have suggested that this undermines parents’ ability to decide how to raise their children – and will result in unnecessary criminalization.

But when Scotland banned the beating of children last November, Child Secretary Maree Todd said the ‘justifiable’ defense was ‘outdated’ and ‘had no place in a modern Scotland’.

“The removal of this defense reaffirms that we want this country to be the best place in the world for children to grow up,” she said.

Hitting your kids can make them violent towards their partners later in life: 2017 study

Children punished with spanking are more likely to abuse their partners later in life, according to a 2017 study.

The study, from the University of Texas Medical Department, asked 758 young adults between the ages of 19 and 20 how many times they had been spanked, spanked, or spanked.

Children who had been punished with physical violence were much more likely to become aggressive towards a future romantic partner, the team found.

Data from the survey showed that nearly one in five (19 percent) admitted to having violence against their loved ones.

Sixty-eight percent claimed to have undergone corporal punishment as a child.

The study’s lead author, Jeff Temple, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Texas Medical Branch, said they needed to determine what they viewed as punishment and what they viewed as abuse.

Speak against CNN, he said: ‘We have defined [child abuse] such as being hit with a belt or board, left with bruises that were noticeable, or going to the doctor or hospital.

“Children who said they had suffered corporal punishment were more likely to have recently committed dating violence.”

The study found that not only children who had been physically abused turned out to be nasty later in life.

Spanking as a form of punishment was enough to increase violent behavior in adults.

The participants have been part of an ongoing scientific trial in Texas since they were in their mid-teens.

The trend to become violent in adulthood was true regardless of gender, age, parental upbringing, ethnicity, and child abuse.

Researchers checked these factors in their analysis and found that they made no difference.

The full findings are published in the Journal of Pediatrics