Anti-Smacking Studies Ignore Equal Harm From Other Corrective Actions – Study

Media Release 11 February 2014
A review of studies which have been critical of smacking as a corrective tool have revealed an inherent bias and can lead to unjustified and misguided prevention programmes and policy decisions, which could ultimately harm children.

The peer-reviewed study from Oklahoma State University titled “Making Valid Causal Inferences About Corrective Actions by Parents from Longitudinal Data”, and published in the December 2013 edition of the Journal of Family Theory & Review referred to three recent studies of 12 disciplinary tactics that parents could use instead of spanking. They found that

no disciplinary tactic was ever associated with reduced child behaviour problems, and 7 of the 12 tactics predicted significantly worse behaviour problems in at least one analysis.

Other studies showed that expressing disappointment and yelling or scolding were associated with as many significantly adverse outcomes as smacking, and time-out and shaming were also significantly associated with internalising problems. Psychotherapy for children and using Ritalin for ADHD appear just as harmful as smacking when using the best research methods used in anti-smacking studies.

The study argues that selection bias taints the conclusions of most studies which criticise smacking. They say:

Parents are less likely to use corrective actions when children do well in school.. do not smell of tobacco smoke, are not at risk for precocious sex, demonstrate trustworthiness with non-deviant peers, are cooperative, and respond well to reasoning. Quite simply, parents do not need to use corrective actions when there are no problems to correct.

They say that this bias hinders discriminations between more versus less effective corrective actions and promotes a tendency to make absolute conclusions against corrective actions.

They conclude that studies which criticise smacking all failed to investigate alternative disciplinary tactics that parents could use in similar disciplinary situations.

Instead, these studies implicitly compared high spanking (smacking) frequency versus doing nothing.. Doing nothing, however, is not an acceptable option when parents are dealing with defiance or dangerous behaviour… Before spanking can be discounted as a viable disciplinary tactic, it needs to be compared with alternatives such as time-out which parents could use in similar disciplinary situations. The failure to make such comparisons has undermined the scientific basis for alternatives to recommend to parents when spanking is proscribed, thus undermining the success of spanking bans.

“It is time we targeted rotten parents who are abusing their children, rather than good parents who choose to use a smack as part of their parenting tool box when raising great kids,” says Bob McCoskrie, National Director of Family First NZ.

Link to Study: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jftr.12020/abstract
ENDS