5 thoughts on “*SYMPTOMS: 120909 Scan of Teicher’s Research – Trauma Altered Development Paper

  1. Gosh, what a lot of questions. I’ll do my best to answer without becoming boring (apologies if I fail; my 10-year-old son knows only too well that I have a tendency to ‘go on’).

    I’m not an expert on domestic violence, I’m afraid (I need to do some work on that for the police project), but it is, of course, a terribly tricky area because so much involves power struggles within relationships and because so much goes unreported. The police do take it seriously but there are grey areas and good support/legal moves appear to rely on the strength of the victim to come forward.

    In principle, there is zero legal tolerance of violence towards anyone, and spouses are protected by the universal laws that apply to all. For adults and children alike, common assault is the lowest charge, involving no injury or very minor hurt (for violence to a child, common assault is defined by there being no mark left; this being the case a parent can use the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ – a defence unavailable for any form of violence to an adult, no matter how minor). Actual bodily harm and grievous bodily harm are the next layers of charge, depending on the amount of injury caused. The charge of actual bodily harm kicks in at a lower level for assault on a child than on an adult – and it is this which our government says is the additional protection for children (though we both know this is a specious argument because emotional scars do not require physical assault of any kind).

    For adults, the legal doctrine of ‘de minimis’ (Latin for ‘trifling’) comes into play when an assault is too trivial to be worthy of the law’s attention (I think this is in place in the US as well). It ensures that not every push or shove or poke in the eye will get reported. Politicians, the police and the judiciary have all ignored our arguments that the ‘de minimis’ principle would come into play equally for assault on a child (not an argument I enjoy, but true). This indicates that they don’t know what to do with it because it doesn’t fit in with their insistence that a ban on smacking would criminalise ‘ordinary, loving parents’ (who, should therefore know better, shouldn’t they?)

    No adult is allowed to hit a child for whom they do not have parental responsibility. It is banned in schools – private as well as public – and all institutions that care for children. (I was a teacher in a junior high school when corporal punishment was outlawed in schools. The law threw clear light on how good teachers had never resorted to it anyway.) Some religious organisations have managed operate as if they are exempt (and too often get away with it because they are ‘following their religious principles’), but that’s going to disappear soon – not even the politicians have the stomach for it.

    Your question, ‘Do we only care when violent actions occur where others can actually SEE the action take place?’ is an important one. The government here says that smacking is dying out because, as a society, we are choosing to turn away from it. The government ‘does not condone’ smacking, but feels it will come to an end in a more meaningful way if it ends naturally (or, should one say, in a manner that won’t affect the ballot box). Trouble is that, as you’ve pointed out yourself, while violence to children is increasingly unacceptable in public, it is not going to die away in private without some kind of enforcement accompanied by public re-education.

    There is, in my view, no way in which hitting someone smaller and less powerful than yourself can be seen as anything other than less bullying – and the truth is that it too often amounts to abuse, torture, manslaughter or murder.

    Here’s a link to the 25 banning countries: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/frame.html. This is from the website of the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children, and you’ll get a whole lot more stuff if you look at what’s available via the site map – including constant updates on the current state of play across the US. You can see a roster of all the various laws on violence towards children in every country in the world – and I’d be interested in your views on comparisons between the US and the UK.

    You might also be interested in the UN Study on Violence Against Children (http://www.unviolencestudy.org/) which recommended, in 2006, that all states worldwide should outlaw physical punishment of children by 2009. Not all states ignored that: 9 countries did introduce a ban in response.

    We’re all involved in a charm offensive, aren’t we? You have very deep personal reasons for wanting to bring about social change which I, to my great fortune, do not have. But, in our different ways, we seem to have come to similar conclusions. We both make use of research and considered reflection to present the need for change and, indeed, to show that some have already found positive ways forward.

    We are a little further ahead on this here than the US, I think. Here, at least, the language of children’s rights is recognised; you can speak it without people screwing up their eyes in complete miscomprehension, as seems to be the case in the US. We have a strong lobby that is heard by many in government and which is perhaps years ahead of where you are in the US. But we also have a less dynamic political arena than you guys, and a tendency for over-long governments which become set in their ways.

    Enough from me for now (warned you I’d go on, didn’t I?) Time to go and do nothing useful.

  2. Couldn’t agree more with you on everything you say. The biggest child protection agency in the UK (the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has, in the past, run well-funded TV campaigns urging parents not to shout at their children, and aims to spread the understanding that abusive relationships are not just about violence.

    Sweden was the first country to ban spanking back in 1979 (the International Year of the Child) and the new law was accompanied by a massive campaign of public education aimed at helping parents to understand and use non-aggressive forms of discipline. Similar campaigns have been launched in countries that have since banned corporal punishment (there are now 25). Here, it would be essential for the same to happen if a ban were to be successful.

    Long time since I read the Thompson Gershoff paper but, if my memory serves, it does touch on the broader implications of positive and negative parenting, though perhaps only through inference, as it is takes a statistical approach to the specific issue of spanking. What she does make clear is that, in ‘loving’ families where spanking is carried out as a form of planned discipline, the negative impacts are reduced – but they are still there.

    The work I’m doing here is about to step up, as I’m planning a charm offensive on the police who find the human rights implications of spanking particularly hard to understand. Any excellent research will always be welcome.

    • How does the domestic violence against spouses issue sit in your country?

      Under what conditions is it considered permissible to hit or strike another adult? Under what circumstances is it permissible to hit or strike someone else’s child? Do we only care when violent actions occur where others can actually SEE the action take place?

      When does hitting someone small and helpless to fight back operate outside the sphere of being outright bullying?

      Do you have a link to the 25 countries that have banned corporeal punishment?

      ‘Charm offensive’ — social change — I greatly admire your work! I will certainly post any excellent links I discover over here, and thank you so much for your connection over here!

      Is it legal in your public schools for staff to smack children?

  3. You might already have worked out from my blog that I am part of an alliance of groups and individuals in the UK seeking to end legalised physical punishment of children. The campaigning aspect that I’m personally responsible for is to build an understanding of the link between smacking (spanking, where you are) and children abuse. It occurs to me that, with your interest in research that provides evidence to support your aims, you might like to know about a meta-analysis carried out in 2002 by a Columbia University academic, Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff, which drew together more than 800 US research studies into the long-term and short-term effects of spanking. You can see it here: http://www.endcorporalpunishment.org/pages/pdfs/Gershoff-2002.pdf.

    This is a quantitative analysis of all the studies – some also quantitative, some qualitative – which found only one positive outcome from spanking: immediate compliance. This is balanced by 7 negative outcomes for children: decreased ‘moral internalisation’ (understanding of right and wrong), increased child aggression, increased delinquent, criminal and antisocial behaviour, degraded quality of parent-child relationship, negative impacts on child mental health, increased risk of abusing own children or partner as an adult, and increased risk of becoming a victim of physical abuse.

    The paper is difficult to read at times because of the depth and breadth of the statistical analysis. However, Thompson Gershoff’s commentary is clear and her points quite simple. I hope you might find it interesting

    • Thank you very much for this info, much appreciated!

      I think the flip side of these statistics is that parents who tend to spank-smack their children are lacking in many, many skills — both as people and as parents.

      These lacks also contribute to these negative outcomes — the hitting probably being just one aspect. Children with parents who DO NOT hit their children probably have better emotional control-regulation, behavioral control-regulation, overall better well-being in the world.

      I am interested to see what the discussion of this massive research paper you gave me the link to has to say about the range of inadequate parenting skills that go right along with spanking.

      Also, interesting — there is research now in the USA that shows that emotional-verbal abuse has just as much negative life long affects on children as hitting — or all other forms of abuse. As hitting ‘goes underground’ the verbal-emotional abuse is becoming more prevalent.

      BIG problems!

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