Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Corporal Punishment for Kids

We've had conclusive proof for the last half-century that striking kids is counterproductive. Corporal punishment makes kids more violent, angry, and likely to break rules when you're not around instead of incorporating rules into their personal values. It's one of the more stupid things an adult can do. Corporal punishment is especially counterproductive as a response to children's behaviors related to mental illnesses or developmental disabilities, as those behaviors are generally a result of anxiety, disregulation, and an inability to understand situations. Punishment increases the anxiety and disregulation, and makes further behavior problems more likely. Punishment of any kind is a terrible way to reduce unwanted behavior, especially for kids with disabilities. Teachers and school administrators should know this.

The American Civil Liberties Union just reported on a study of corporal punishment in schools. The report is unfortunately diluted with emotional anecdotes by people who clearly do not understand clinical diagnoses (not that they should, just keep the junk out of a report). It does have some interesting data in it, though.

Who is doing all this counterproductive nonsense?
It's our good friends in the South. The states that do the most are (in decreasing order): Texas, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Florida, and Missouri. We recall that these are also the states with the lowest education, most crime, lowest life expectancy, highest teen pregnancy, highest infant mortality, lowest incomes, etc... New England, the west coast, and the north central states have outright banned corporal punishment in schools.

What does this have to do with health care?
For starters, kids with disabilities are more frequently targeted for corporal punishment, which exacerbates their problems rather than treating them. I think this is also yet another symptom of the Southern culture. This is a culture that does not value human dignity, civil rights, or evidence-based interventions. This is a culture that relies more on invalid beliefs and tradition in making policy decisions. This is evident in their overall health care practices, as well as the educational system and so forth. Everyone needs to make decisions based on empiricism. Physically punishing (nearly any punishing, really) kids today is going to create greater ongoing mental health care needs, and the problems are more likely to get passed down generationally. Stop the cycle now.

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