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Physical punishment harms children and affects brain development


How does corporal punishment affect children?

Raising children is a stressful and complicated topic for all parents. Researchers are now investigating how physical punishment affects children's behavior. The doctors found that corporal punishment can harm the child and even affect the normal development of the brain.

In their current investigation, scientists from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that physical punishment in children leads to aggression and other negative effects. The experts publish their demand for a ban on physical punishment in the context of an updated policy statement called Effective Discipline to Rise Healthy Children in the English-language specialist magazine "Pediatrics".

Physical punishment affects brain development

In the long run, physical punishment leads to aggression in affected children and does not help them 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 differentiate incorrectly from correct, doctors say. The experts also looked at the harm associated with verbal punishment (shame or humiliation). The AAP supports educating parents about effective disciplinary strategies that teach appropriate behavior and are designed to protect children and others from harm.

Blows do not improve the child's behavior in the long term

Today, significantly fewer parents are in favor of corporal punishment than was the case in the past, the scientists say. "However, physical punishment remains legal in many states, although there are indications that children are injured - not only physically and mentally, but also with regard to school performance and interaction with other children," explains study author Dr. Robert D. Sege in a press release from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Physical punishment and harsh verbal abuse can cause a child to become anxious in the short term. In no way does this improve the child's long-term behavior, but aggression is intensified.

Corporal punishment made children more aggressive

The study found that children of three years of age who were physically chastised more than twice a month were significantly more aggressive at the age of five. At the age of nine, these children still showed negative behavior and lower values ​​for a recommendable vocabulary. Research has shown that beating, shouting, and shaming a child can raise 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 from children

With their study, the experts wanted to help families develop more effective measures that support parents in keeping calm and controlled behavior. Parents should also reward their children's positive behavior rather than resort to punishment. Rules and expectations can also be set in advance, but the key is that they are enforced consistently.

Positive role models and clear boundaries are important for children

The AAP recommends that pediatricians should exercise their influence to help parents with age-appropriate strategies for disciplining their child. The policy statement also includes educational opportunities in which doctors 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 from 2000. Corporal punishment does not lead to any advantages and it is known that children with positive role models and clear boundaries grow up carefree and also develop better, according to the study authors. (as)

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