Spare the rod, save the child.

By Nestor Lopez-Duran PhD

Just some quick thoughts on some current events in case you missed it.

This week Ive been reading Steve Pinkers wonderful new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, which provides some compelling evidence about the drastic decline in violence throughout history. According to Pinker, we live in an extremely peaceful world and that this is likely the most peaceful time in human history. The evidence that Pinker provides is vast and compelling, and he also provides some colorful graphic examples to make his point. One example stuck with me: just a few hundred years ago parents would take their kids to the towns plaza to watch people be tortured to death. That is right! Just a few hundred years ago, in many European countries,watching an execution or a torture session was not just entertainment, it was a family affair! Pinker argues that we have also become significantly less violent in much more subtle ways, from the abandonment of settling personal honor conflicts through deadly duels, to the reduction of executions in all industrialized nations (except the USA), to the drastic reduction in marital violence as well as parental violence against their children (aka spanking) in the western world.

But this week we were sadly reminded that we are not as peaceful as we could be just yet. The New York Time published an article about two recent instances in which parents had killed their children by using violent discipline practices. In one case, an 11 year old adopted girl was found dead in her backyard due to hypothermia and malnutrition. It appears that her parents had punished her by making her sleep in the cold and withholding food. She also was often beaten with a plastic tube. In another case, a 7 year old girl was beaten to death by her parents, who apparently were following some extreme Christian teachings about how children should be punished. In fact, reportedly the parents often paused the beatings to pray.

These two cases have one thing in common: both parents had the book of a controversial Christian Pastor who preaches the virtue of beating your children.  In both cases, authorities believe that the Pastors teachings likely influenced these parents. Although you can blame these deaths on the acts of some violent parents, it is sad that some people in positions of authority within some religious communities openly endorse the use of violence against children.

I have already written extensively about spanking, so instead of repeating myself, I want to direct my readers to an editorial I wrote more than a year ago called Why spanking is never OK. My views as well as the research that led to that editorial have not changed. I invite anyone to comment or pose questions after reading the editorial.

Best wishes, Nestor.