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Angry father hitting her little baby daughter

Ted Cruz’s off the cuff remark about his willingness to spank his five year old daughter, Catherine, if she said “something she knows to be false” got the attention of many concerned about children’s well- being.

Apparently Mr. Cruz is unaware of the detrimental effects of spanking on children’s development. He’s certainly not alone. Despite over 40 years of published research on topic, experts’ report that nearly 50% of toddlers in the United States are spanked more than 3x per week (Peters-Bennett, 2013).

So where is the disconnect? Maybe it lies in society’s belief in the biblical adage “spare the rod, spoil the child”. Or in the fact that spanking can be effective in the short term.

But consider the costs. Spanking is a major childhood stressor known to disrupt the neural pathways needed for emotional regulation. Children’s fear and anger about spanking interfere with their ability to internalize their parents’ disciplinary message. Instead they learn that the  use of force is an acceptable problem-solving technique. It demands compliance.

Spanking children under age five is associated with aggressive behavior and depressed language scores in school. By adolescence, the incidence of binge drinking and other types of substance abuse is highest among those who report being spanked in their home. If that’s not enough to discourage the use of corporal punishment, there’s more.

Research conducted in countries that outlaw spanking (these include most countries in the developed world) show a sharp drop in violent crime that correlates closely with a similar decrease in the rate of children being spanked (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/outlawing-spanking_n_3606886.html).

It is time for policy makers concerned with reducing the rates of violent crime, gun ownership, and incarceration to take a closer look at the very real and serious consequences of spanking. Join with organizations such as the U.S Alliance to End the Hitting of Children (www.endhittingusa.org) and Hands Are for Holding (stopspanking.org) to recognize the use of corporal punishment against children for what it is: an accepted form of domestic violence.

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My new book Trauma-Sensitive Schools: Learning Communities Transforming Children’s Lives is available at http://www.amazon.com