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Spanking has declined in America, but pediatricians worry about impact of pandemic


Millennials and Gen X parents appear to be spanking their kids less than previous generations, according to a research letter published Monday in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics.


"This article is really impressive ... and corresponds with our view that there's been a generational change," Dr. Robert Sege said, lead author of the American Academy of Pediatrics' policy statement on corporal punishment.



"Younger people tend not to hit their children," said Sege, who was not involved in the new study. "As we've woken up to the issues of domestic violence and intimate partner violence there's been a growing rejection of any sort of violence within the home, including spanking."

“年轻人往往不打他们的孩子,” 塞格说,他没有参与这项新研究。“当我们意识到家庭暴力和亲密伴侣暴力的问题时,越来越多的人拒绝任何形式的家庭暴力,包括打屁股。”

The new analysis used data from the Monitoring the Future study, a national survey of 25 consecutive groups of graduating high school seniors between 1993 and 2017. Each group was reassessed 17 years later, at about 35 years of age. The study excluded those without children or with older children.


Some 50% of parents reported spanking a child in 1993; By 2017 that number was down to 35%. While excellent news, that number is still too high by standards set by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2018.


The pediatricians' group suggests adults caring for children use "healthy forms of discipline" -- such as positive reinforcement of appropriate behaviors, setting limits and setting expectations -- and not use spanking, slapping, threatening, insulting, or humiliating.


"Parents should never hit their child and never use verbal insults that would humiliate or shame the child," said Sege, who directs the Center for Community-engaged Medicine at Tufts University in Boston.



One preliminary study during the first six weeks of the pandemic, by theRapid Assessment of Pandemic Impact on Development, or RAPID, project of the University of Oregon, found an immediate increase in both caregiver stress and emotional and behavioral issues in children.


Since then, emotional and mental difficulties have appeared to ease for children and their parents, the survey found, with key exceptions: Stress indicators in lower-income and single-parent households were continuing to increase as the weeks went by.


To uncover what is happening across the country, the American Academy of Pediatrics and Prevent Child Abuse America will begin a longitudinal study in August of how parents across the country are coping.



"We plan to really look deeply at what are the positive experiences that children are receiving? What are their adverse experiences and how are parenting practices changing during all of it?" Sege said.


"All of us who care about children are very concerned about what happens if the extra benefits, the unemployment benefits and all of those things no longer exist," he added.


Making sure that Americans don't revert to corporal punishment is key, experts say. An increasing amount of research shows that the end results of corporal punishment may not be positive.


"The point of disciplining a child is teaching that child self-regulation when Mom and Dad aren't around," Sege said. "Spanking doesn't accomplish that."


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