Recently I came across the infographic at the end of this post, after sharing why my wife and I choose not spank our children.
I was a little surprised at how prevalent pro-spanking attitudes still are. Yes, Christians (78%) are more likely to think that kids need a good spanking, as are Republicans (80%), those who live in the South (78%), and those with less education 78%). But solid majorities of non-Christians (66%), Democrats (65%), Northerners (63%), and the college-educated (67%) agree with them. In fact, majorities in all but one group (Asians/Pacific Islanders) approved of corporal punishment.
But here’s the one that stopped me in my tracks: 1 in 6 kids are spanked before their first birthday.
I’m on my second tour of duty as the parent of an infant. I know they can be frustrating. Especially when it’s three in the morning and they JUST. WON’T. SLEEP. But there is nothing—NOTHING—that justifies striking an infant. They’re not even capable of doing anything to deserve punishment. The parts of the brain that govern emotions, relationships, and thought have yet to fully develop.
I’d venture to say at least some of these infant spankings are because the parents were taught their kids are tainted with original sin from the moment of conception. I remember years ago when a VERY reformed colleague of mine brought his newborn daughter to the office, expressing his astonishment that such a beautiful creature could be so utterly depraved, as he put it. Well, if it’s hard to believe, there might be a reason for that. Yes, I believe in sin and its universal effects. But if your theology leads you to hit an infant, you have a pretty terrible theology.
Besides, the Bible implicitly acknowledges that kids of a certain age aren’t yet capable of doing anything bad. (And there are other reasons to revisit our understanding of original sin, as Peter Enns argues.)
Back to the infographic… it also highlights some of the adverse effects of spanking. To me, the evidence is overwhelming that the negative long-term impacts of spanking—higher rates of antisocial and aggressive behavior, poorer mental health, MUCH higher risk of abuse, etc—far outweigh any positive short-term outcome. (In fact, temporary compliance seems to be the only “positive” outcome of spanking.) To those who support spanking in certain cases, what do you make of these findings? Do they cause you to rethink anything, or do you believe there are other factors not considered here?
Oh, and I did wonder about the site behind this infographic. It appears to be a website for researching online psychology degrees. But the content seems to hold up to scrutiny; and, importantly, they cite their sources at the bottom.