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American College of Pediatricians

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Pediatricians group: Spanking a valid option for parents

American College of Pediatricians

GAINESVILLE, Fla., November 8, 2018 (American College of Pediatricians) — The American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds) issued the following statement on Thursday in response to a recent article from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) titled Effective Discipline to Raise Healthy Children, which declares all disciplinary spanking by parents to be harmful to children.

“This statement continues to rely upon poorly designed, biased studies, despite the ACPeds' 2017 challenge to the AAP that their ‘Research on Disciplinary Spanking is Misleading,’" ACPeds said in its response. "It almost exclusively emphasizes what NOT to do (don't ever spank) with little about how parents should respond to persistent misbehavior, especially when milder disciplinary measures haven't worked. In the report, 18 paragraphs, all seven bullet points, and almost all of the four policy recommendations focus on spanking without mentioning any alternative responses to misbehavior. This is hardly a statement on ‘effective discipline’ and more a rant against spanking, in contrast to the far more comprehensive policy it replaces, and furthers the AAP's baseless campaign against spanking by parents.

“Moreover, the diatribe against all spanking (‘however light’) seems based on advocacy efforts more than a fair objective summary of the scientific evidence," the statement continued. "The background section features the ‘Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment of Children’ rather than objective scientific evidence about spanking and any alternative disciplinary measures that could replace it. Also, instead of considering all five summaries of available research on physical punishment published since 2000, the Policy Statement relies on the one opposed to all spanking, even though 96 percent of its evidence came from correlations and associations, rather than evidence of true causation. Only researchers who are advocating for a predetermined conclusion would rely on correlations as their primary evidence in evaluating a corrective disciplinary procedure or even a corrective medical procedure.

"Young children need correction and, at times, punishment from their parents to learn appropriate behavior and self-control ─ key ingredients for their future success in life. For the more defiant and contrary young child, timeout and reasoning do not consistently work," ACPeds added. "Compared to other corrective measures, using spanking to enforce milder tactics has been shown to result in less defiance and less aggression than 77 percent of alternative measures (including timeout) with these children. As conceded by the AAP statement authors, over 70 percent of parents today agree that ‘spanking is at times necessary in the discipline of young children.’

"Executive member, Dr. Den Trumbull, states, ‘The AAP advice leaves parents helpless with the defiant, non-compliant child, removing a discipline option that can be very effective when selectively used.’ Despite the recent avalanche of biased research against all physical discipline, evidence indicates ordinary spanking to be a valid and needed disciplinary option when 2- to 6-year-olds refuse to cooperate with milder measures.”

More information can be found at the ACPeds website.

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