Data on physical punishment leads to ‘No Hit Zones’

Hospitals committed to promoting positive parenting

Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff standing with members of Manor Collaborative Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff (center, standing) surrounded by members of the Manor Collaborative. Chief Deputy Anthony Johnson (right, standing) attended the meeting with members of his team from the Travis County Sheriff’s Office, January 2017.

“Spanking” is hitting, and parents in the U.S. hit more than parents in other countries.

That’s according to Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Human Development and Family Sciences, at the University of Texas at Austin.

Gershoff is collaborating with Seton Dell Children’s Medical Center to create No Hit Zones in hospital facilities. This approach includes a policy prohibiting use of physical punishment at the hospital, staff training for employees, and posters with tips for positive parenting. No Hit Zones help change social norms by teaching parents that hitting is harmful to children.

Speaking to members of the Manor Collaborative for Safe and Healthy Relationships about her research on physical punishment, Gershoff was emphatic:

“Spanking does not make children more compliant in the short term, is not linked with reductions in aggression or antisocial behavior, and does not result in long term compliance or internalization of morals.”

In fact, statistics show outcomes are worse, not better. Children who are hit show significantly more aggressive and anti-social behaviors. Unintended outcomes include mental health problems, difficulty relating to parents, and decreased self-esteem and academic performance.

Gershoff emphasized the important role of teachers in modeling positive discipline, which has been shown to decrease parents’ use of physical punishment.

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