Over 100 years of research on children and families provides clear evidence of the dangers of corporal punishment.
Today, 50 countries ban corporal punishment of children in all settings, including homes. From the United Nations to the American Academy of Pediatrics, professionals have recognized that positive parenting alternatives can have long-term benefits for our children, families, schools and communities.
That’s why I am so pleased to join UW Health’s American Family Children’s Hospital and Dr. Barbara Knox’s Child Protection Team for their “Hitting Hurts” campaign.
As Dane County district attorney, I care about reducing corporal punishment of children because we now know the seeds of violence can be planted in the first five years of a child’s life. Research tells us these first five years are the most formative for brain development.
Well-meaning parents have hit their children, believing it was best for the child’s well-being. But we now know hitting a child puts that boy or girl at risk for detrimental outcomes affecting every aspect of our community, including the criminal justice system.
When parents use corporal punishment, children are at risk of injury. In fact, our office last year received referrals for charging on 138 child physical abuse cases. And child maltreatment is a major cause of homicides to children.
Children who are hit are at risk for mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Their IQ scores can be lower, and they can have more difficulty concentrating in school.
Children who are hit can be more aggressive than other children and engage in bullying behaviors. They may learn violence is an acceptable way to resolve conflict.
We now know corporal punishment puts children at risk for future alcohol and drug problems. They are at risk of becoming the perpetrators and victims of domestic violence. Our office last year received referrals for charging on over 2,700 domestic violence cases. Domestic violence is one of the major causes of homicide.
We now know hitting children as a form of discipline puts them at risk for feeding the pipeline into the criminal justice system.
My office has made it a priority to address corporal punishment. Since 2013, we have set up a program for parents who injured their children using corporal punishment.
In 2014 and 2015, we collaborated with UW Children’s Hospital and other community partners, offering a conference on the cultural context of corporal punishment. We also produced a public service announcement on the benefits of violence-free homes.
In 2014, our office became the first governmental office in the nation to start a “No Hit Zone” program — joining children’s hospitals across the country. I am so proud of our staff’s commitment.
The right to use corporal punishment has long been an acceptable part of parenting in the United States, and legislatures still allow it. But it negatively affects our children.
Our world is a scary and far too often violent place. Our children deserve to learn how to peacefully resolve conflict from those they love the most.
I applaud UW American Family Children’s Hospital for publicly addressing this issue. Those providing health care for our children and who join in this campaign have the potential of touching the lives of every child in Dane County.
Ozanne is Dane County district attorney: firstname.lastname@example.org.