Smacking children reduces emotional intelligence and worsens behaviour

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I met Duncan Grant an Ambassador for the  NSPCC last night and we were talking about the Full Stop Campaign so I read with interest today an article in The Daily Telegraph about how smacking children reduces their emotional intelligence and makes their behaviour even worse, claims a new study.

Here is an article I wrote awhile back about smacking

and if you need fresh ideas about how to discipline your kids read Chapter 10 of my “Raising Happy Children for Dummies” book or download my “Secrets To Well Behaved Kids” CD and ideas book as children need your firm, fair and consistent boundaries and your loving discipline not a smack.

“Researchers found that smacking kids, instead of using non-physical punishments such as time-outs, reduces their emotional intelligence and ‘executive functioning ability’ which allows us to think on the spot and modify our behaviour when necessary.

Continued corporal punishment could lead to poorer discipline among kids subjected to it, by lowering their executive functioning ability. While they may comply with rules in the short term to avoid getting beaten, in the long term they’ll fail to take them on board or understand the reasons why the exist.

The study authors, from American and Canadian universities, warn this could lead to lower levels of self-control and poorer behaviour in the long term.

They monitored 63 kids from two private schools in West Africa, aged five and six. One of the schools used corporal punishment for offences ranging from forgetting a pencil to disrupting classes, while the other stuck to non-physical discipline for misdemeanours, such as verbal warnings and time-outs.

All the children came from the same area and had similar home backgrounds. Their parents were also in favour of corporal punishment, even if their kids’ school didn’t mete it out to them.

The youngsters were assigned a range of tasks designed to test their executive functioning skills. Results, published in journal Social Development, showed that the older kids at the school that avoided corporal punishment scored ‘significantly higher’ in these tasks than kids who were smacked at school.

Study author Professor Victoria Talwar, from McGill University in Montreal, Canada, said: “The findings suggest that a harshly punitive environment may have long-term detrimental effects on children’s verbal intelligence and their executive-functioning ability.

“As a result, children exposed to a harshly punitive environment may be at risk for behavioural problems related to deficits in executive-functioning.

“While overall performance on the executive-functioning tasks was similar in the younger children from both schools, the Grade 1 children in the non-punitive school scored significantly higher than those in the punitive school.”

She added: “These results are consistent with research findings that punitive discipline may make children immediately compliant but may reduce the likelihood that they will internalize rules and standards. That, in turn, may result in lower self-control as children get older.

“This study demonstrates that corporal punishment does not teach children how to behave or improve their learning.

“In the short term, it may not have any negative effects; but if relied upon over time it does not support children’s problem-solving skills, or their abilities to inhibit inappropriate behaviour or to learn.”

Co-author Professor Kang Lee, from the University of Toronto in Canada, added: “We are now examining whether being in a punitive environment day in and day out will have other negative impacts on children such as lying or other covert anti-social behaviours.

“Also, we are pursuing the long term consequences of experiencing corporal punishment. For example, what would children’s cognitive and social development be five or 10 years down the road?”


The Daily Telegraph article

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