Said Ted Cruz, dragging his daughter into politics again, plying an icky metaphor, and striving — I suppose — to win the hearts of the corporal punishment crowd.
I wonder, what do Americans think of the corporal punishment of children these days? This was a hot question in September 2014, you may remember, when a significant pro football player, Adrian Peterson, was found to have used a "switch" on his little son and the famous former basketball player Charles Barkley said:
"I'm a black guy ... I'm from the South. Whipping — we do that all the time. Every black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances...."NPR's Gene Demby looked at the numbers and the research:
[A] sizeable majority of people in the United States, regardless of race, look favorably on corporal punishment. Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight looked at some polling data and found that just north of 8 in 10 black people favored corporal punishment. That's higher than white people, but not by a whole lot: 7 in 10 white people favored corporal punishment. (There was a slightly larger gap on this question among people who identified as born-again Christians and those who did not. But again, strong majorities of both groups felt this way — about 80 percent and 65 percent, respectively.)...
In 2002, [Elizabeth Gershoff, a sociologist at the University of Texas, Austin] reviewed nearly 90 studies about corporal punishment published over more than six decades. She looked for links between childhood corporal punishment and a range of different child behaviors and experiences, like moral internalization, mental health, aggression and criminal or antisocial behavior.
Gershoff found that one of the two strongest associations was between the use of corporal punishment and the child's immediate compliance. The other link was between the use of corporal punishment and the physical abuse of the child by the parent. (As she put it, corporal punishment is "effective in getting children to comply immediately," but it can also "escalate into physical maltreatment.") Those findings, she wrote, underscored just how complex the debate around physical discipline is.
Gershoff also wrote that studying the real effects of corporal punishment requires making a distinction between corporal punishment and abuse. Again, that's a hard ask: Parents report on their own tactics in these studies, and they're using different cues about social norms to decide where to draw the line.
Of course, any possible consequences of spanking (or not) butt up against all of parenthood's more immediate considerations and compromises. Should you spank your 3-year-old for darting out into the street? Will time-out help your kid internalize what he's done to warrant that punishment? These are the kinds of questions that folks grapple with day to day. If there are any long-term effects for a given child on how a parent chooses to answer that question, they might not be apparent until much, much later....