Children’s Cognitive Functions Impaired By Physical Punishment
Although physical punishment is no longer in trend, there are still a lot of people who do not know how to keep their children under control and they turn to spanking whenever they feel that the children must be punished.
While in the past, no one brought proof that physical punishment could harm children in any other way but from a physical point of view (although some children may be left with psychological scars after a good spanking), there is a new study that suggests that children who are physical punished may end up showing signs of impairment in what concerns the cognitive functions. What is worse is that there are still some schools which practice this corporal punishment and children may end up really badly after such a thing.
The study was made in two African schools, where children received physical punishment. What the researchers involved in the study discovered was that children who had to undergo such treatment did poorly on tasks involving executive functioning (which includes processes such as planning, delaying gratification or psychological thinking). According to the scientists, this sort of punishment may have long-lasting effects on the children who are exposed to it and their verbal intelligence and executive-functioning ability may be seriously damaged. Furthermore, these children are also more prone to develop behavioral problems related to deficits in executive functioning.
The group of researchers at the University of Toronto followed a group of 63 children in kindergarten and first grade, who attended classes at two West African private schools. From a demographical point of view, all the students who were followed were similar, given that their families lived all in the same type of environment. In one of the schools, the form of discipline included slapping of the head, beating with a stick and pinching, which were administered publicly and on a regular basis for things such as the dropping of the pencil or disturbing the class. The children who went to the other school, for the same offenses, were punished by the teacher who gave them time-outs and verbal reprimands. When it came to how the children did at the tasks the researchers asked them to complete, the kindergarten children did not show any difference in performance. However, when it came to the first grade students, the ones who were attending the courses of the non-punitive school did significantly better at the task in comparison to the children who had been physically punished by their teachers. This study, along with other who have been made previously, comes to support the theory which states that although children may comply immediately if they are physically punished, they may end up having some serious problems in what concerns their cognitive functions. According to Victoria Talwar, the study shows that corporal punishment does not teach children the way in which they should behave or how to improve their learning. “In the short term, it may not have any negative effects; but if relied upon over time it does not support children’s problem-solving skills, or their abilities to inhibit inappropriate behavior or to learn.”
Although scientists have debated the effects of corporal punishment throughout time, there were only a few studies to show the effects it had on the cognitive functioning. The researchers are currently trying to find out if being physically punished every day has the same effect as being punished only from time to time. Their conclusion was that further studies must be made in order to determine exactly how physical punishment affects children and to what extent it can produce serious and irreversible damage.
The United States of America has about 19 schools where physical punishment is the only way of admonishing children for their faults and misbehaviors. However, teachers need the child’s permission for such a punishment, so things cannot get out of control. With the insight provided by this new study on the effects of physical punishment on children’s cognitive functions, parents and authorities may get a better look at whether physical punishment should still be allowed in school or not. Given that there are so many children who go through this kind of thing all around the world, drastic measures should be taken in case physical punishment proves to be so threatening and if it proves to create serious and long-lasting effects on these poor children.11