Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Humpty Dumpty Strikes Again

So, here we go again ... what's up with some people's apparent need to define words however they think they should be defined, either because it suits their own immediate purposes or ... it gets them in the news, perhaps? Hell, if I know.

My latest little rant involving a "study" (using the term somewhat loosely) by Canadian researchers on the effect "spanking" has on a child's future mental health. Which, apparently, is a two to seven per cent increase in the chance of said child later developing mental illness, such as mood and anxiety disorders, problems with alcohol and drugs and more.

Don`t believe me? Check this out:
Between two and five percent of disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar, anorexia or bulimia were attributable to physical punishment as a child, the study said.

From four to seven percent of more serious problems including personality disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder and intellectual disabilities were associated with such punishments in childhood.
Oh, where to begin?

First of all, I don't know how you might define the term "spanking" but to me it does not necessarily include "harsh physical punishment," or "pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping or hitting as a form of punishment from elders".

To me (and, might I suggest, most sane people), a spanking means just that - "spanking" or striking a child's bottom, aka buttocks, aka rear end. Coincidentally, Wikepedia offers the same defintition. Now, I'm not among Wikepedia's hugest fans (then again, who exactly is?) but still ... it is what it is. And something tells me that definition would be very similar, if not exactly the same, for that of most people who stumble across this blog.

To be clear, in my mind, there is a huge difference between smacking a child on the bottom and smacking them up the side of the head; between smacking a child on the bottom and pushing or shoving them around. And I certainly don't equate the term "spanking" with "harsh physical punishment".

But who knows? Perhaps our Canadian researchers grew up in households where any kind of physical contact as discipline was taboo. Or, perhaps, they grew up in families where they were routinely "smacked around".

I suppose we should just be grateful that, unlike other supposed research studies on "spanking", this study actually excluded both sexual abuse and physical abuse "that left bruises, marks or caused injury". Wait, does that mean they included sexual and physical abuse that didn't leave bruises or marks or cause "injury"? You have got to be kidding...

But, presuming it's even possible to move past that little wrinkle, my point is that I'm pretty sure their definition of what constitutes a spanking does not equate with the majority of the world's or, at least, the majority of my generation.

But let's move on, shall we?

Did you notice that spanking supposedly results in a higher risk of a child later suffering from, among other things, bipolar disorder? Really? 

Bipolar disorder - a mood disorder consisting of periods of extremely elevated mood (mania), extremely low mood (depression), and normal mood; the result of abnormalities in the way some nerve cells in the brain function or communicate is caused by spanking?

And obsessive compulsive disorder?

Seriously, OCD, which, although it used to be considered the result of family troubles or attitudes learned in childhood, is now believed to have a neurological and genetic basis?

And, saving the best for last, let us not forget intellectual disabilities. Wow, I don't even know where to go with that one. Except, perhaps, to point our intrepid researchers to some of the actual, you know, research in the area.

Now, were one to postulate that children who had been diagnosed with any of these conditions (or later went on to be diagnosed with such a condition) were more likely (and more often) subject to "harsh phsycial punishment", that I would buy. I would buy it for the simple fact that these children are do not just have challenges but are, in fact, challenging. [Not that I needed any Google links to convince me of that.] Although I should be clear on one thing here; I am not suggesting for one minute that makes "harsh physical discipline" okay in those cases - I offer it, not as an excuse but as, perhaps, a reason.

And were one to postulate that for children with an underlying genetic disposition to some of these conditions were more likely to be negatively effected by harsh physical discipline, they would not be arguing with me. Then again, I wouldn`t recommend ``harsh physical discpline`` for any child. Would you?

However, I suppose that some might argue that not all hope is lost. After all -
Researchers stressed that the study could not establish that spanking had actually caused these disorders in certain adults, only that there was a link between memories of such punishment and a higher incidence of mental problems.
And, at least in some circles, saner heads appear to prevail, even if only in the small print.
But he says the issue is not necessarily black or white, and these correlations and associations have several factors involved.

"The implications COULD be severe. When you read the title it's very catchy and tells you that spanking leads to this."
No joke, particuarly when so many of the news story, including the first one quoted above, refer to the above mental health problems and intellectual impairment being "attributable" to spanking.

Although I have to wonder how many people will actually notice, let alone remember that disclaimer. Particularly with headlines like these:
  • Spanking boosts odds of mental illness, Canadian researchers say;
  • Spanking kids can cause long term harm: Canadian Study (complete with it's opening statement - "Spanking children can cause long-term developmental damage and may even lower a child's IQ, according to a new Canadian analysis that seeks to shift the ethical debate over corporal punishment into the medical sphere.`` - wow, way to go Rueters!);
  • Canadian study links spanking and developmental problems;
  • Spanking Produces Troubled Kids, Study Contends - Punishment linked to more aggression in children, two decades of research shows;
  • Study claims spanking can hurt children's development and lower their IQ and, one of my personal favourites,
  • Talking smack: Spanked kids have higher rates of psych and drug ills later: study says
One final thought before I leave this ``study`- were but this science good, shouldn`t a lot more of the current generation of adults have a lot more problems than we do?

Ah well, no need to let sanity and reason get in the way, it`s just all the more ammunition fodder for those whack jobs who would use the criminal law to penalize us for performing one of our most important jobs as parents.

Don`t get me wrong, I certainly don`t think that spanking should be the only (or even the main) way a child is disciplined. But that judgment call as to if and when has to be made by the parent. The parent that is charged (both legally and morally) with caring for that child.

Child abuse is (and should be) illegal. Disciplining your child (including with a smack on the bottom when necessary) is not in the same ball park or even the sport. And yet some so called experts seem determined to put it there.

1 comment:

doorkeeper said...

News--why do we keep thinking it will bear any relation to fact? Or (un)common sense? Or anything at all besides telling us which color of kool-aid the writers drank? Because NONE of them are "on" water.
But hope springs eternal, and all that. It just beggars belief to think that a whole industry would make a practice of lying whenever they choose (always, about everything.) A whole industry....
Oh, wait, never mind.