The Most Cowardly Act: April 30th is International Spank Out Day

The Canadian Children’s Rights Council describes International Spank Out Day thus:

International SpankOut Day was initiated in 1998 by EPOCH-USA to bring widespread attention to the need to end physical punishment of children and to provide educational information to parents and caregivers about non-violent alternatives. Over 500 informational events and programmes have been held in the US and in other countries where it is sometimes called “no hitting day”, “no smacking day” or “day of non-violence for children”.

The Canadian Children’s Rights Council would like to have 365 “SpankOut Days” each year

Hitting a child on the buttocks is an act of violence against a child.  It is both physical assault and sexual assault.  It is not “discipline”, it is not “punishment”, it is not “parenting”.  To anyone who attempts to defend hitting children, answer me this:

If you disobeyed your employer or your spouse, or you broke something, and you were on the buttocks or another body part, would you call that “discipline” or assault? 

If you call it a criminal act for an adult to do to another adult, why is it not assault when the person hit is a child?

Adults can call for help.  Adults can defend themselves and leave a relationship or situation.  Adults have resources and their own voices.

Children have none of these abilities.  They lack knowledge of their rights, who to call for help.  They are dependent on the “parents” who hit them.  And society often ignores children, especially when those children come from “good families” with Jeckyll and Hyde “parents”.

There are a plethora of studies (a few linked below this paragraph) demonstrating the long term effects of violence on children, even those too young to remember details of where or when.  If affects their brain and can have the same long term effects as CPTSD from war or other trauma.  And “spanking” is a form of sexual abuse, because of the nerve endings of the buttocks and genitals are connected.

APA, April 2012: The case against spanking

Physical discipline is slowly declining as some studies reveal lasting harms for children.

A growing body of research has shown that spanking and other forms of physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, but many parents aren’t hearing the message.

“It’s a very controversial area even though the research is extremely telling and very clear and consistent about the negative effects on children,” says Sandra Graham-Bermann, PhD, a psychology professor and principal investigator for the Child Violence and Trauma Laboratory at the University of Michigan. “People get frustrated and hit their kids. Maybe they don’t see there are other options.”

Many studies have shown that physical punishment — including spanking, hitting and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems for children. Americans’ acceptance of physical punishment has declined since the 1960s, yet surveys show that two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids.

But spanking doesn’t work, says Alan Kazdin, PhD, a Yale University psychology professor and director of the Yale Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic. “You cannot punish out these behaviors that you do not want,” says Kazdin, who served as APA president in 2008. “There is no need for corporal punishment based on the research. We are not giving up an effective technique. We are saying this is a horrible thing that does not work.”

Science Direct, August 2009: Reduced prefrontal cortical gray matter volume in young adults exposed to harsh corporal punishment

WebMD, April 19, 2021: Effect of Spanking on Kids’ Brains Similar to Abuse

Rare is the parent who’s never so much as thought about spanking an unruly child. But a new study provides another reason to avoid corporal punishment: Spanking may cause changes in the same areas of a child’s brain affected by more severe physical and sexual abuse.

Previous research has consistently found links between spanking and behavioral problems, aggression, depression, and anxiety, says Jorge Cuartas, a doctoral candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and first author of the study. “We wanted to look at one potential mechanism, brain development, that might explain how corporal punishment can impact children’s behavior and cognitive development.”

US National Insititutes of Health, April 2021: Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children

Spanking remains common around the world, despite evidence linking corporal punishment to detrimental child outcomes. This study tested whether children who were spanked exhibited altered neural function in response to stimuli that suggest the presence of an environmental threat compared to children who were not spanked. Children who were spanked exhibited greater activation in multiple regions of the medial and lateral prefrontal cortex (PFC), including dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, dorsomedial PFC, bilateral frontal pole, and left middle frontal gyrus in response to fearful relative to neutral faces compared to children who were not spanked. These findings suggest that spanking may alter neural responses to environmental threats in a manner similar to more severe forms of maltreatment.

Harvard University, April 2021: The Effect of Spanking on the Brain

Spanking found to impact children’s brain response, leading to lasting consequences

Research has long underscored the negative effects of spanking on children’s social-emotional development, self-regulation, and cognitive development, but new research, published this month, shows that spanking alters children’s brain response in ways similar to severe maltreatment and increases perception of threats.

“The findings are one of the last pieces of evidence to make sense of the research of the last 50 years on spanking,” says researcher Jorge Cuartas, a Ph.D. candidate at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who coauthored the study with Katie McLaughlin, professor at the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. “We know that spanking is not effective and can be harmful for children’s development and increases the chance of mental health issues. With these new findings, we also know it can have potential impact on brain development, changing biology, and leading to lasting consequences.”

ABC News, February 2008: Study: Spanking May Lead to Sexual Problems Later

Researchers say the discipline tactic can lead to risky sexual behaviors.

Children whose parents spank them or otherwise inflict physical punishment may be more likely to have sexual problems later, according to research to be presented Thursday to the American Psychological Association.

The analysis of four studies by Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire-Durham, suggests that children whose parents spanked, slapped, hit or threw objects at them may have a greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner, engaging in risky sexual behavior or engaging in masochistic sex, including sexual arousal by spanking.

“A greater chance of physically or verbally coercing a sexual partner”.  That may not show a direct link between hitting children and becoming a rapist, but it shows one cannot dismiss the possibility., January 2018: Pediatricians’ Group Says Spanking is Ineffective, Potentially Harmful

It’s official: spanking is out. Time-outs are in. That’s the lead message of a new policy statement from the largest pediatricians’ group, in its strongest warning yet against the use of spanking or other harsh punishments–ever–by parents and others charged with caring for children. It’s the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) first update to its policy guideline on discipline since 1998, when it discouraged but did not specifically proscribe spanking. This time, the message is clear: spanking doesn’t work and may cause harm. Ditto for harsh verbal reprimand that shames or humiliates.


He pointed to evidence that corporal punishment initiates a cycle of aggression that often followed children into adulthood and raised their risk of mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety. A 2009 brain-imaging study found that young adults who were spanked as children had reduced gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate, suggesting they may be on a trajectory of altered brain development. Those who had been spanked also performed worse on IQ studies.

University of Texas, April 2016: Risks of Harm from Spanking Confirmed by Analysis of Five Decades of Research

The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and experience increased anti-social behavior and other difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research.

AUSTIN, Texas ­ — The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking by experts at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan.

The study, published in this month’s Journal of Family Psychology, looks at five decades of research involving over 160,000 children. The researchers say it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

This is the first of two items.

The second tomorrow covers the uglier aspects of this form of child abuse.


  1. Allison says

    I have raised two high-mainenance kids from birth to adulthood (ages 28 & 31), and I have never found a situation in which I thought that punishment of any kind (including spanking) would get me what I wanted out of the situation. In every case, I realized, based on my knowledge of my children, punishment would have been counter-productive.

    The problem with punishment is that it assumes that a child’s ability to control their urges based on conscious understanding of the future is a lot greater than it really is, and this is an issue up through the teen years. What they want or feel like doing is real and right now, the consequences are just an intellectual concept about a foggy future.

    Another problem is adults putting the child in situations that they aren’t developed enough to handle, and then punishing them for failing. (This was the dominant theme of my childhood — is it any wonder that, 50 years later, I’m still dealing with PTSD from it?) The classic example (which I see all the time in the subway) is when a child (not necessarily a toddler!) has a “temper tantrum” or misbehaves because they’re tired or or overstimulated or overwhelmed, and then the parents smack them in a futile attempt to get them to “behave.” It’s as foolish as beating your car with a baseball bat when it won’t start in the morning.

    What does work is to understand the child and figure out what situations might be problematic and arrange things so that they either can’t do the wrong thing or don’t have the urge to. It’s what good animal trainers do: they arrange things so that the animal’s natural tendencies lead it to do what the trainer wants.

    It is also important to make the child feel understood and cared about (i.e., loved), so that their natural tendency to want to please their caregivers will make them want to do what you want them to do. The problem with punishment, such as spanking, but actually any harsh treatment, is that it breaks this. The child starts to feel like you’re just doing it to be mean.

    • says

      The thing I that annoys me the most is the victim blaming.

      It’s appalling to ask “what was she wearing? how much did she drink?” after a man rapes a woman. It’s appalling to ask a woman “what did you say/do?” after Intimate Partner Violence. Society is improving in those areas, though clueless apologists for violence (e.g. cops) still say them.

      But people still ask “what did the kid do?” as if anything justifies violence against a child. The only justification for violence against a child is if the kid is trying to kill the parent in their sleep, otherwise it’s never justified. Abusers say “the kid disobeyed me”, and most people just accept that as an answer without standing up against the violence.

      When the breeding pair hit me as a kid, it wasn’t because I did or didn’t do anything, they claimed I “did something wrong” as a pretext for violence. They intended to hit me regardless of what I did, and made up things as an excuse (e.g. “I told you to _____!” without ever having said that as an instruction). I was “a good kid” because it reduced the amount of violence they inflicted, not because I “learnt right from wrong”.

      At the risk of Too Much Information:

      I would be sent flying for saying “I don’t want to watch TV because you smoke in the living room”, and society would tell me, “you shouldn’t disrespect your parents”. (Gee, thanks for taking the side of a defenceless kid.) Hitting didn’t work as a tween because I got bigger, so the sperm donor resorted to strangling me.

      Strangulation is one of the worst forms of abuse. It demonstrates a willingness to kill, and that threat never goes away as long as you’re under the abuser’s control. Permanent escape isn’t an option when you’re a dependent child.

      I lost job opportinities in my 20s and 30s because I wouldn’t wear a shirt and tie. I was still terrified and triggered about having anything tight around my neck. Post transition, I’ve gotten over it and can wear chokers (tight fitting necklaces) and high collared spandex tops without freaking out. But it took a long, long time.