Survey Finds ‘Staggeringly High Rate of Spanking’ in North Carolina
It's shocking and sad. A new survey finds that 30 percent of our state's moms of children less than two years old say they have spanked their children in the last year.
And even younger children have not been spared physical punishment. The study finds that 5 percent of North Carolina moms of three-month-old babies say they have spanked their very young children, and more than 70 percent of mothers of 23-month-old children say they have done likewise.
Dr. Adam Zolotor, the lead author of the study, which was conducted at the University of North Carolina's Survey Research Unit, said in a statement that researchers were "pretty surprised by the staggeringly high rate of spanking."
"We need to do a better job as a society teaching parents how to teach their kids what they need to learn without fear, pain, or coercion." said Zolotor, an assistant professor in the Department of Family Medicine in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine and a core faculty member of the UNC Injury Prevention Research Center. Researchers telephoned 2,946 mothers of children born in North Carolina to take an anonymous survey from Oct. 1, 2007, to April 7, 2008.
How is it possible that parents are hitting children so young? I see a lack of education here. We need a state-wide campaign to teach parents first and foremost that babies and tots are incapable of misbehaving on purpose and that spanking serves no purpose, in fact, it causes developmental problems. Here's another idea: How about including a parenting session in high school that spells out developmental milestones, such as when children begin to understand the difference between right and wrong? The class could also cover alternative forms of age-appropriate discipline.
It's been said that almost any product come with a manual, but babies do not. Yet kids are our best hope and most precious resource. As Zolotor noted, the cost to society of spanking our youngest is huge. "We know that spanking has been associated with child abuse victimization, poor self-esteem, impaired parent-child relationships, and child and adult mental health, substance abuse, and behavioral consequences," he said.
Parents know the stresses of dealing with young children. A friend of mine once told me that parenting young children is the highest management job because you are dealing with essentially irrational beings. And when you're a new mom who is sleep-deprived and trying to adjust to the demands of your infant, it's easy to snap, even as you realize that taking out frustration on a baby is never an option.
So how can we right this wrong? Programs that reach out to new moms are growing in North Carolina. In 2008, a $7 million program brought together child abuse prevention experts from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Injury Prevention Research Center and the School of Medicine and Duke University Medical Center. The program has been educating parents of babies born in North Carolina each year about the hazards of shaking them and it also gives them alternatives to use when they feel they need a break from a crying.
We need to jump on this issue right away with more education and help for new moms.