Adrian Peterson, a running back for the Vikings, turned himself in to the police in September after being prosecuted for child-injury. According to an article by Pat Borzi and Steve Eder on The New York Times, Peterson was prosecuted after hitting his four year-old son with a small tree branch in Spring, Texas.
Once news of this hit the media, people were divided on the issue of whether Peterson’s actions were right or wrong and if he should be punished.
Some went on to say we’re beyond this, that it’s a barbaric practice and we don’t need it, while others would argue that this is culture, this is tradition, and it was probably necessary. They argued that Peterson is a good man and good player and deserves no punishment.
Many would accept the second answer. Tradition is important, except when it is harmful, as various studies have recently proved regarding corporal punishment with children.
According to a study by The University of New Hampshire and writer/scientist Murray Straus reported in the book, “The Primordial Violence,” beating your child will slow cognitive development and increase the risk of them exposing criminal and antisocial behaviors.
Murray Straus writes, “Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior. But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school.”
Other studies support this idea. Elizabeth Gershoff, cited in an article by Darcia Narvaez in Psychology Today titled “Spanking and Child Development: We know enough to stop hitting our children,” goes on to further explain that spanking does not improve child behavior, but instead makes it worse. After studying 30 mothers who were tasked by Gershoff to spank their kids over a period of time for the study, Gershoff reported that spanking did not make their kids better and actually gradually increased child aggression. In fact, non-physical punishments such as timeout time were proven to be more effective.
An anonymous survey of SAS students revealed interesting results regarding how parental abuse has affected students and how they feel about parental abuse.
Students were asked, “What is your stance on parental abuse and discipline and why?” and 172 responded: 64 thought that there was nothing wrong with discipline and 100 thought that it was wrong, while eight either refused to answer, had no opinion on the matter, or were divided and didn’t want to pick a side on the issue.
One student responded, “It shouldn’t be used as a mean to discipline children. Physical punishments will only make the child scared of the parent, and their sense of safe home might be changed. Also at these formative ages physical punishments can be scarring.”
Another student responded, “Physical discipline is needed to keep children in line.”
When asked, “Have your parents ever used physical punishment as a means for discipline?” it was an even tie with 86 responding “Yes” and 86 responding with “No.”
Parental abuse and discipline still remains a highly debated topic globally. Many here in Singapore will follow Adrian Peterson’s trial until he is finally judged on Dec. 1. But for researchers and the majority of students at SAS, the answer is simple: unless you want your children to become angry and less well behaved, put away the paddle and send them to time out.