If You Were Spanked As A Child, Here's How It May Have Affected Your Brain
The long-term outcomes of spanking across cultures have been extensively researched for the past 30 years.
I also want to be honest and preface this by sharing my background in terms of spankings as punishment. I became pregnant at a young age so I regretfully didn't give much thought to how I was going to discipline my son. My now-husband (who is also my son's father) and I were both spanked so that is how punished our son if time-out didn't work. I didn't think anything of it, especially since we rarely spanked him. However, that was 12 years ago and I did a lot of things then that I would do differently now.
Licensed psychologist and school psychologist Dr. Han Ren is going to share some important information we need to know about spankings and disciplining children.
Here is the full video of my interview with Dr. Ren if you want to watch. Otherwise, scroll down for a breakdown of the facts!
Dr. Ren said that when we talk about spanking, we have to look at generational trauma and our species's history of brutality against each other's bodies. "As humans, that's one of the ways that we have always known to problem-solve. As we have evolved and matured and found different ways of problem-solving, brutality has become less and less acceptable."
"So many communities of color use spanking as part of what they deem 'cultural.' I think we confuse what's cultural with what's generational trauma because it's something that was used on our people. These are communities that have been enslaved and oppressed and colonized. It was the most common method of keeping people in line and that gets passed down through the body, through generations. So we confuse it, thinking it's culture."
"But just because this happened to us, that doesn't mean we need to repeat it to our kids. It's not culture. It's trauma. And it's is a lot more rampant in communities of color because of global systems of oppression."
So, now let's look at the research. There have been hundreds of studies that have looked at the long-term outcomes of spanking across cultures and it has been extensively researched for the past 30 years. "Recent meta-analyses show consistent associations between spanking and internalizing disorders of depression and anxiety, as well as externalizing disorders like aggression, impulse control problems, anger problems, and other problems that infringe on the rights of others," Dr. Ren explained.
"This study looked at brain activation in the amygdala, which is the part of the brain responsible for emotion, especially fear and anger. They also looked at the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that's responsible for executive function, decision-making, planning, and higher-order thinking."
"The kids in this study were between the ages 10 and 12, and the kids were shown neutral faces and fearful faces. They looked at kids who were never spanked and kids who were spanked — some had been spanked a few times and others very often. Kids who had experienced severe abuse, like physical or sexual abuse, were excluded from this particular study. However, they had been included in other studies so they could compare the brain patterns."