Is Punishment an Effective Behavior Modification Strategy in Children?
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5.1 Written Assessment: Systematic ReviewIs punishment an effective behaviour modification strategy in children?Julie HemmingsUnit Name: Psychology 1AUnit Code: PSY4111Due Date: Sunday, October 5th 2014AbstractThis systematic review has been undertaken to examine the effectiveness of corporal punishment as a behaviour management and modification strategy. Corporal punishment as a method to discipline children has been debated for many years and findings mostly accept that it does not change children’s behaviour in the long term. It can even have adverse effects such as aggression in children as they grow older. There has been some evidence that in the short term, it can be effective as an immediate stopping of a particular behaviour and compliance by a child. Of interest were the findings in different cultures whereby corporal punishment has been made illegal. These countries have found a decline in anti-social behaviour. Also examined were limitations in these studies and their findings. Measurement of how the studies were conducted could be questionable as findings are mostly based on parents written answers without observations from the researchers. Systematic Review Punishment has different meanings depending on the context. To punish means to inflict a penalty for an offence committed. The extent of that punishment can vary from physical: smacking, hitting, to material: receiving a fine; loss of activity or freedom, to emotional: disapproving look; removal of affection (Sanson, Montgomery, Gault, Gridley, Thomson, 1996). Each serves a purpose which is to modify the behaviour of someone. This systematic review will examine the research on whether punishment is an effective behaviour modification strategy on children and in particular, corporal punishment will be examined. Corporal punishment refers to a child having a physical punishment inflicted on them. There is much research in this particular area of punishment and the findings will be discussed throughout this review. Simons and Wurtele (2010) found in their research that parents who used corporal punishment as a behaviour management strategy believed it was effective. These parents were mostly subjected to this form of discipline when they were children. This research is also supported by Vittrup and Holden (2010) who investigated children’s views on corporal punishment. The children also agreed that corporal punishment was an effective way to discipline if they viewed the transgression as serious. Vittrup and Holden’s (2010) research had some interesting findings in that the younger the child, the more likely they were to agree with corporal punishment. Let us examine moral development theory by Kohlberg (1981), where he believed that younger children focus on right and wrong. Kohlberg termed this phase ‘preconventional morality’. This phase is when children believe if they are good they should receive a reward whereas if they are naughty, they should be punished for it (Lillienfeld et al, 2014). Preconventional morality supports what these children were saying in the research by Vittrup and Holden (2010).
Overwhelmingly the research on the effectiveness of corporal punishment indicates that it is not an effective method. There is some evidence that as a short term, compliance method there is an immediate effect, however, not as a long term effective strategy. A child is more likely to comply with their parent’s demands immediately after being hit, however they will not learn the desired behaviour over the long term (Gershoff, 2013). Also related to corporal punishment was the increased aggression amongst children if corporal punishment was used. In a study by Lee, Altschul & Gershoff (2013) which examined over 3,000 preschoolers, they found that increases in spanking from ages 1 to 3 predicted increases in children’s aggression from ages 3 to 5. Gershoff’s (2002) meta-analytical review on corporal punishment linked it with negative behaviours from children; poor parent/child relationships and an increase in child physical abuse. Another longitudinal study supported these findings as well (Gromoske & Maguire-Jack, 2012). Similarly, the research undertaken by Grogan-Kaylor, (2004), determined that corporal punishment has an effect on childrens antisocial behaviour. They found that the use of corporal punishment does not deter antisocial behaviour but it is likely to increase it.Corporal punishment does not teach children why their behaviour was wrong or what they should do instead. It creates an environment where they learn to behave appropriately when the threat of physical punishment is there, but not once the threat is gone (Hoffman, 1983). The use of corporal punishment by parents is hard to measure as it occurs at various times throughout their lives, varying ages of children and varying circumstances. So researchers must rely on parent reports of corporal punishment rather than on observations (Gershoff, 2002). Research conducted by Holden, Coleman & Schmidt (1995) and Larzalere & Merenda (1994) had high validity as the parents completed diaries or had regular conversations with the researchers; however, the findings from many different studies relied on the information provided by the parents. In the various researches in punishment, we also need to consider the culture and different attitudes towards corporal punishment. In both the United Kingdom and the USA most parents use it, yet it has significant adverse effects. Although a child is more likely to comply with parental demands immediately after being hit, they will not learn the desired behaviour, and physical punishment is no more effective than other methods. In these countries, it is still a common practice despite these findings (Waterston, 2000). In Sweden there has been a ban on all forms of physical punishment since 1979. Research found that there has been less physical abuse or deaths in children since the ban. On the other hand, in the UK, statistics have shown that more than one child dies a week as the result of abuse. In relation to the behaviour of Swedish youth, in contrast to the experience of most other industrialised countries, the rates of theft, drug, alcohol use, and suicide for young adults have declined so the longer term effects of an anti-smacking ban have been effective there (Elliman & Lynch, 2000).