Countries That Ban Spanking See Less Teen Violence
Thirty-eight countries, including the United States and Canada, had partial corporal punishment bans, with spanking or slapping banned in schools but not at home. Twenty countries had no bans.
The study defined frequent teen violence as four or more physical fights within the past year.
Rates of frequent teen violence varied widely between countries. Teen girls in Costa Rica had the lowest rates, with 1 percent. Teen boys in Samoa had the highest, at 35 percent.
Teen boys in countries with a full ban were 69 percent less likely to be involved in frequent teen violence compared to countries without a ban. For teen girls, that number was 42 percent less, the researchers reported.
In countries with a partial ban, the rate of frequent violence was only lower among young women.
Elgar said the researchers controlled the data for a number of factors, such as a country's wealth and homicide rates.
He noted that this subject is a divisive one, and said he doesn't expect this study will change anyone's mind, but he hopes to conduct further research to see if the downward trend in violence continues.
Although the United States only has a partial ban on spanking, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against the use of physical punishment, explaining that it teaches kids aggressive behavior.
Dr. Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at Zucker Hillside Hospital in Glen Oaks, N.Y., said, "Children learn from their parents. If parents use force, children learn force. If parents use reasoning and calm, children learn reasoning and calm."
Fornari, who was not involved with the study, suggested that parents remain calm when young children misbehave.
"Offering a warning is very useful. If the child continues to not listen, a brief timeout may be helpful as long as the child was informed that the timeout would follow the warning," he said. If a youngster continues to misbehave, he suggests a consequence such as no TV or video games for a day.
Fornari also suggested that parents know when to ask for help. "A tired and frustrated parent is not in a good position to discipline a child," he said.
The study was published Oct. 15 in the journal BMJ Open.
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