please. I mention this subject only because it is really, really important. Murray Strauss was really the first person to gain prominence for academic investigation into family violence. Although we have always known that parents hit children and spouses hit each other, it was something that people used to take for granted and indeed, husbands hitting wives used to have strong endorsement from clergy -- as parents hitting children still does today among right-wing "Christians."
Spanking and other corporal punishment, Strauss now finds, is actually associated with lower IQ in children. I'm not necessarily as worried about IQ -- it's kind of overrated if you ask me -- as I am about how it affects children's basic understanding of how the world works and how to get your way in it. People tend to think that we teach our children by telling them what's right and wrong and by rewarding and punishing them, but that's not really how it works. We teach them how to behave by the way we behave -- it's called Social Learning Theory. Here's one simple explanation:
Aggressive responses can also be acquired through social modeling or social referencing. Small children are likely to look to a familiar face to see how to react to a particular person or situation. By demonstrating aggression, one can unknowingly encourage aggression in suggestible children. One of the most popular current debates which centers around the idea that TV violence contributes to increased aggression in viewers exemplifies the idea that people are easily influenced by others' behavior. By modeling the behaviors of TV, movie or video game characters, acts of aggression become increasingly more frequent and violent. Researchers suggest that after aggressive behaviors are acquired, other factors serve to maintain their presence including self-reinforcement, in which the aggressive individual is proud of his or her harmful action.
Well, if just watching aggressive behavior on TV can make kids violent, what do you think happens when their own parents hit them? And if you're one of those materialist types who wants to see "hard" evidence, how about this from Tomoda et al in the journal Neuroimage (Aug. 2009, suppl):
OBJECTIVE: Harsh corporal punishment (HCP) during childhood is a chronic, developmental stressor associated with depression, aggression and addictive behaviors. Exposure to traumatic stressors, such as sexual abuse, is associated with alteration in brain structure, but nothing is known about the potential neurobiological consequences of HCP. The aim of this study was to investigate whether HCP was associated with discernible alterations in gray matter volume (GMV) using voxel-based morphometry (VBM). METHODS: 1455 young adults (18-25 years) were screened to identify 23 with exposure to HCP (minimum 3 years duration, 12 episodes per year, frequently involving objects) and 22 healthy controls. High-resolution T1-weighted MRI datasets were obtained using Siemens 3 T trio scanner. RESULTS: GMV was reduced by 19.1% in the right medial frontal gyrus (medial prefrontal cortex; MPFC, BA10) (P=0.037, corrected cluster level), by 14.5% in the left medial frontal gyrus (dorsolateral prefrontal cortex; DLPFC, BA9) (P=0.015, uncorrected cluster level) and by 16.9% in the right anterior cingulate gyrus (BA24) (P<0.001, uncorrected cluster level) of HCP subjects. There were significant correlations between GMV in these identified regions and performance IQ on the WAIS-III. CONCLUSIONS: Exposing children to harsh HCP may have detrimental effects on trajectories of brain development. However, it is also conceivable that differences in prefrontal cortical development may increase risk of exposure to HCP.
It is absolutely urgent to change cultural norms so that adults no longer hit children.