Spanking and Its Effects On A Child’s Brain Development

A toddler crying.Spanking is becoming a more and more taboo way to discipline one’s children. While a national research study shows that many adults still believe spanking is an adequate way to discipline a child, the number of adults who disapprove of the practice is growing every year. The negative effects on a child far outweigh any “benefit” a parent may see in the practice. Spanking affects child brain development and can influence their emotions, development, and behavior.

This article will cover the research that’s been done on spanking and its effects on a child’s brain development. Additionally, we will offer alternative ways to discipline children that do not negatively impact their brain development.

Research on Spanking and Its Effects On A Child’s Brain Development

Many institutions and researchers have studied how spanking affects children’s brain development, including:

The researchers often equate spanking to corporal punishment, which is a disciplinary tactic meant to inflict physical pain. Various forms of corporal punishment, like flogging, caning, and imprisonment have been used in the past against criminal offenders. This is likely not the treatment you want to extend to your child.

According to Harvard University’s study, corporal punishment like spanking activates a child’s prefrontal cortex. Typically, researchers say, stimulating this area of the brain triggers a “there is something I should pay attention to” response. In regular doses, this activation encourages a child to be aware and adapt to their surroundings. The long-term consequences of this stimulation through physical punishment, however, can predispose a child to conditions like anxiety and depression. These conditions come about because the child has had to adapt to an environment where they might be physically struck at any moment. This causes them to constantly be on alert and on edge.

Spanking is also shown to reduce the amount of gray matter in a child’s brain. Gray matter is essential in a child’s development. Reducing the amount of gray matter in the brain can negatively impact a child’s emotions, knowledge retention, and memory. Not surprisingly, this can lead to a child falling behind in school, not developing emotional intelligence, and struggling to communicate their feelings.

Notably, these studies found that children who have been spanked display similar brain activity to those who are victims of sexual abuse or domestic violence. Researchers drew this conclusion by studying the functional MRI waves of victims of all three situations. These fMRI waves also confirmed changes in emotion regulation and social information processing in spanked childrens’ brains.

Real-World Impacts Of Spanking On A Child’s Life

As mentioned above, children who are spanked often have a more difficult time:

  • Processing,
  • Learning,
  • Listening,
  • Remembering, and
  • Communicating.

It is not hard to imagine the longer-term effects spanking has on a child’s brain development.

A child who is routinely struck by a parent, sometimes without even understanding why, will begin to feel a deep sense of powerlessness that can cause anger to arise. A child unable to process and communicate their intense emotions will tend to lash out at others when they are frustrated. Furthermore, a child who was spanked is likely to think that physical violence is a proper way to resolve issues. This all can lead to a child feeling isolated and lonely. And if a child is already struggling with stunted brain development or a mental illness, this isolation will only exacerbate those problems.

Additionally, children who are spanked might have a harder time focusing on and retaining what they learn in school. This inability to remember knowledge can lead to more frustration and anger and create a lasting negative impact on a child’s life.

In the end, it is clear that the negative consequences of spanking far outweigh the benefit of scaring a child into submission. In short, don’t do it. There are plenty of more effective and less harmful ways to discipline a child when they are deserving of a consequence.

Some parents might wonder, If spanking affects child brain development negatively, why aren’t there laws against it? Many pediatric boards in the U.S. have called for outlawing spanking. Additionally, many attorneys defend victims of domestic violence that began when a child was spanked. Furthermore, there can be consequences with law enforcement and the Department of Human Services.

Alternatives To Spanking

Children are very receptive to positive reinforcement. When most children are praised for doing something right, they are likely to repeat the action. Therefore, one of the best parenting tactics is to reward a child and give them attention when they are behaving well.

Oftentimes, children misbehave to get their parents’ attention. If you ignore the child when they are being naughty, the odds are good that they will quit the behavior. However, if that does not work, parents should use a timeout to convey that the child’s action was not acceptable. Remaining calm and consistent with timeouts is key, though.

Finally, it might seem simple, but asking your child what is wrong when they are misbehaving might diffuse the situation. Perhaps the child had a bad day at school or hasn’t been able to achieve one of their goals. This and many other things can lead to them becoming overwhelmingly frustrated. Lending your child an ear or shoulder to cry on can go a long way in lessening inappropriate behavior.

We Want to Help

Spanking and its effects on a child’s brain development can lead to very negative outcomes. Sometimes the situation with spanking can get out of hand, and you might need legal representation. Our experienced family legal matters lawyer is ready to stand up for you if that is the case. Contact 303 Legal, P.C. by phone or online to set up your free initial consultation today.

If you find yourself thinking that spanking might be the best way to punish your child, remember the harmful impacts it could have on your child’s future. Teaching them to communicate when they are frustrated and how to diffuse a situation calmly will serve them much better in the long run than a quick spank.