The 67,000 pediatricians that make up the AAP warn that physical punishment perpetuates the cycle of violence and it only makes children act violently on their own with other partners or towards themselves. So they advocate healthy ways of discipline how to set clear or advance limits or expectations or reward positive behavior.
The institution updates a 1998 report where it recommended that caregivers choose other methods than blows. In the current edition, which will be published in the December issue of the Pediatrics newspaper, he reiterates this recommendation but more emphatically and relying on the numerous investigations that prove the ineffectiveness of corporal punishment.
The AAP goes beyond physical punishment and also refers to other forms of pain such as insults or humiliation. "The good news is that there are fewer parents who support the use of spanking," said Robert Sege, author of the initial directive (of 1998) and pediatrician of the Tufts Medican Center in Boston. "However, physical punishment is still legal in many states, even though there is evidence that it is harmful to children, not only physically and mentally, but also in school outcomes and in their interaction with other children."
Studies show that hitting a child, shouting at him or humiliating him can elevate stress hormones and cause changes in brain architecture. Verbal abuse is also linked to mental problems in preadolescents and adolescents.
Physical punishment can make the child feel fear in the short term, but do not contribute to the improvement of their behavior in the long term and can lead to aggressive behavior, according to the AAP. In one study, young children who received physical punishment more than twice a month at 3 years were more aggressive when they reached 5. When these children turned 9 they still showed negative behaviors and less vocabulary, according to the AAP, who also opposes corporal punishment in schools. "There is no benefit. We know that children grow and develop better with positive models and putting healthy limits, "Sege said.
Antisocial behavior or mental health problems
The most complete analysis on the subject, prepared by the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, which took into account five decades of research with 160,000 children, gives reason to those who believe that there is not a good scourge in time. This study, published in 2016, concludes that Hitting children when they misbehave has effects similar to physical abuse. The more lashes they receive, the more likely they are to challenge their parents and experience antisocial behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.
"Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as a scourge and not potentially abusive behavior," said Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor at the University of Texas and co-author of the study. "We found that the scourge is associated with unintended harmful results and not with obedience, which is what the parents who discipline their children want. "
The practice is far more common than it should be in the US: a 2013 survey found that 81% of Americans believe that "hitting children is sometimes appropriate." The United States also does not have laws that prohibit corporal punishment: 31 states have laws that prohibit corporal punishment, but continues to be legal in 19 states, among them Florida, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Mississippi, where in the 2006-2007 academic year more than 38,000 children were punished with wooden boards, or 7.5% of the students of the state.
"A scourge is never the way to correct anyone, a child either," says Spanish pediatrician Lucía Galán. " After pasting our son we end up with any other resource of education, negotiation and learning. What's after that? Nothing. And besides, it's no use. The only thing we will achieve is that it generates fear (harmful to a child) or that he, by imitation, hits or abuses our strength with other children and in other circumstances ('As my mom hits me, I hit') " , writes the pediatrician in his blog.
Why must the game of children be taken seriously