Physical punishment harms children and influences brain development

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How does corporal punishment affect children?
Child rearing is an exhausting and complicated issue for all parents. Researchers are now investigating how physical punishment affects children’s behaviour. The doctors found that corporal punishment can harm the child and even affect the normal development of the brain.

Researchers at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently found that physical punishment can lead to aggression and other negative effects in children. The experts publish their call for a ban on physical punishment in an updated policy statement called Effective Discipline to Rise Healthy Children in the English-language journal Pediatrics.

Physical punishment influences brain development
In the long run, physical punishment leads to aggression in affected children and does not help them to learn responsibility and self-control. The new evidence even suggests that this form of punishment affects normal brain development. Other methods of education are safer and more effective if children are to learn to distinguish wrong from right, doctors say. The experts also dealt with the damage associated with verbal punishment (shame or humiliation). The AAP helps educate parents about effective disciplinary strategies to communicate appropriate behavior and protect the child and others from harm.

Blows do not improve the child’s behaviour in the long term.
Today, significantly fewer parents advocate the use of corporal punishment than was the case in the past, scientists say. “Physical punishment, however, remains legal in many states, although there is evidence that children are injured – not only physically and mentally, but also in terms of performance at school and interaction with other children,” study author Dr. Robert D. Sege explains in a press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Physical punishment and harsh verbal abuse can make a child anxious in the short term. This does not improve the long-term behavior of the child, but aggressions are still intensified.

Physical chastisement makes children more aggressive
The study found that children at the age of three years who were physically punished more than twice a month were much more aggressive at the age of five years. At the age of nine, these children still exhibited negative behavior and lower levels of recommended vocabulary. Research has shown that beating, shouting and shaming a child can increase stress hormones and lead to changes in the architecture of the brain. Hard verbal attacks are also associated with psychological problems in children and adolescents.

Reward positive behavior of children
With their study, the experts wanted to help families develop more effective measures to help parents maintain calm and controlled behaviour. Parents should also reward positive behaviour rather than punishment. Rules and expectations can also be established in advance, but the key is to enforce them consistently.

Positive role models and clear boundaries are important for children.
The AAP recommends that paediatricians should use their influence to help parents with age-appropriate strategies for disciplining their child. The policy statement also includes educational opportunities where physicians and parents can learn healthy forms of discipline. Of course, the AAP also opposes physical punishment in schools. The researchers already addressed this problem in a separate policy statement in 2000. Physical punishment does not lead to any advantages and it is known that children with positive role models and clear boundaries grow up carefree and develop better, according to the study authors. (as)

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