Email to Missouri Rep. Shannon Cooper with copies to every member of both houses of the Missouri state legislature
From Jordan Riak, March 15, 2003

Representative Shannon Cooper's response, March 19, 2003
Jordan Riak's response, March 26, 2003
Dear Representative Cooper:

PTAVE volunteer Laila Jameson forwarded me your last letter in which you suggested that she do some research, presumably to learn how spanking benefits children. I suppose, by "research" you mean becoming informed about the issue.

All responsible citizens ought to be informed. We have no debate with you there. But merely suggesting that someone become informed isn't particularly helpful if you don't cite good sources for information. You haven't done that. All we've learned from you is that you are grateful for all the well-deserved spankings you received when you were a child, and how they did you no harm. Is that your research? It sounds to me like an example of the Stockholm Syndrome. That's a term used by psychologists to denote a process whereby captives identify with their captors and feel grateful for the abuse they receive.

As a member of the state legislature, your grasp of issues has a direct effect on public policy, and it would be a pity if you let unresolved personal issues influence your law-making duties. The folk wisdom about spanking you picked up from Mom and Dad, which they got the same way from their parents, is hardly evidence on which to base public policy. So, permit me to give you back a bit of your own valuable advice: do some research. I'll make it easy for you.

First, read my booklet Plain Talk about Spanking. It's a quick, easy read and you can get it online at If you prefer hard copy, let me know and I'll mail you one.

If you require something more detailed and authoritative, see below a list of scholarly books on the subject. You can find them in any well-stocked public or university library and in most larger book stores. If you would rather converse than read, see the short list below of experts you can call who can tell you everything you need to know, and more than you ever dreamed exists, about the effects of hitting children. (You'll notice, some of the people on that list are authors of books on the book list.) Their phone numbers can be obtained from their respective universities, and they will be very happy to talk to you. If you would like a long list of experts, let me know. I've created a directory for just this purpose and will send it to you if you wish.

List One - Books

Ian Gibson. The English Vice. London: Duckworth, 1978.

Philip Greven. Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse. New York: Random House, 1991.

Irwin A. Hyman. Reading, Writing and the Hickory Stick: The Appalling Story of Physicaland Psychological Violence in American Schools. Boston: Lexington Books, 1990; Case Against Spanking: How to Stop Hitting and Start Raising Healthy Kids. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Inc., 1997.

Irwin A. Hyman and Pamela A. Snook. Dangerous Schools: What We Can Do About the Physical and Emotional Abuse of Our Children. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1999.

Michael J. Marshall. Why Spanking Doesn’t Work. Springville, Utah: Bonneville Books, 2002.

Alice Miller. For Your Own Good: Hidden Cruelty in Child Rearing and the Roots of Violence. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1983.

Eli H. Newberger. The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character. Cambridge: Perseus Publishing, 1999.

Murray A. Straus. Beating the Devil out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families. New York: Free Press, 1994.

Felicity de Zulueta. From Pain to Violence: The Traumatic Roots of Destructiveness. London: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1994.

List Two - People

Paula Allen-Meares, Ph.D., President of the Society for Social Work and Research; Dean and Norma Radin Collegiate Professor of Social Work, University of Michigan School of Social Work.

Craig A. Anderson, Ph.D., Professor & Chair, Department of Psychology, Iowa State University.

T. Berry Brazelton, M.D., Clinical Professor of Pediatrics Emeritus at Harvard Medical School; Professor of Psychiatry and Human Development at Brown University. In 1995, Harvard University Medical School established the T. Berry Brazelton Chair in Pediatrics.

Ester S. Buchholz, Professor in Applied Psychology Department, New York University; Founder and Director of Psychology of Parenthood Program.

Paul F. Dell, Ph.D., ABPP; Director, The International Society for the Study of Dissociation (ISSD); Clinical Director, Trauma Recovery Center, Norfolk, VA.

Denis M. Donovan, M.D., M.Ed., F.A.P.S.; child and adolescent psychiatrist; Director of the Children's Center for Developmental Psychiatry, St. Petersburg, Florida;

David Elkind, Ph.D., Professor and Department Chair, Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Development, Tufts University; President Emeritus, National Association for the Education of Young Children; Dr. Elkind is the author of many books, including: The Hurried Child (1981/1988/2001), Reinventing Childhood (1998), All Grown Up and No Place to Go (1998), Ties That Stress: The New Family Imbalance (1994) and Miseducation (1987).

Norma D. Feshbach, Ph.D.; Professor Emerita Psychological Studies in Education, UCLA; formerly Chair of the Department of Education at UCLA and Dean of the School of Education at UCLA ; Chair, APA task force on Rights of Children and Youth, early 80's; pioneered research in the nature of empathy.

James Garbarino, Ph.D., Professor of Human Development, co-director of Family Life Development Center at the College of Human Ecology, Cornell University.

Madeleine Y. Gómez, Ph.D.; APA Member; President of PsychHeath, Ltd., Assistant Clinical Professor, Northwestern University Medical School; Clinical Supervisor, Hartgrove Hospital; Adjunct Visiting Professor, Roosevelt University; Consultant, Zurich Corporation.

Philip Greven, Jr., Ph.D., Professor II Emeritus, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.;

Irwin A. Hyman, Ed.D., ABPP (Clinical & School, Psychology) FAPA, FAASP. Professor of School Psychology & Director, National Center for the Study of Corporal Punishment and Alternatives, Temple University.

Harriet L. MacMillan, M.D., M.Sc., F.R.C.P.(C), Associate Professor, Canadian Centre for Studies of Children at Risk, McMaster University and Director, Child Advocacy and Assessment Program, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Canada.

Michael J. Marshall, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, West Liberty State College; clinical psychologist; author of Why Spanking Doesn't Work.

Eli H. Newberger, M.D., Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School; Lecturer on Maternal and Child Health, Harvard School of Public Health; Senior Associate in Medicine Boston Children's Hospital. Author: The Men They Will Become: The Nature and Nurture of Male Character.

Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.; Senior Fellow, The ChildTrauma Academy, Houston, TX; Medical Director, Provincial Programs in Children's Mental Health, Alberta Mental Health Board, Calgary, AB.

Alvin F. Poussaint, MD; Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School; co-author of Raising Black Children.

David Schonfeld, M.D., Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Child Study, Yale University School of Medicine; Head of the Subsection of Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics; Director of the Fellowship Program in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics at Yale.

Murray Straus, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology and Co-Director Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire, Durham; author of, among other titles, Beating the Devil Out of Them.

David Szydlo, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Research Scientist, Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine; Education and Curriculum Development; Director for the National Center for Children Exposed to Violence.

Martin H. Teicher, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School & Director of the Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program, McLean Hospital; author of over 150 scientific articles including several on the deleterious effects of childhood abuse and early stress on brain development.

Sincerely, Jordan Riak, Exec. Dir.,
Parents and Teachers Against Violence in Education

Representative Shannon Cooper's response, March 19, 2003

Thank you for your offer to help and your suggested readings. I have done extensive work on this issue, and I am happy to tell you that after hours of research I have traced spankings in my family back seven generations. In fact, one of my great, great, great uncles, Daniel Boone, a mischievous boy himself, received many spankings. These did not deter him or hamper him in any way from exploring and building this great nation.

After careful consideration, I am convinced that there is nothing at all wrong with a good old-fashioned spanking, and if you want to get down to it, you can trace the lack of respect shown towards teachers and the general chaos in public schools to the outlawing of corporal punishment by school districts.

The more I think about it, we may need a law mandating spankings.


Shannon Cooper

Jordan Riak's response, March 26, 2003

Thank you for responding and for having invested so much time and effort into researching spanking's benefits to successive generations of your family. I remind you (again) the statistical significance of personal anecdotes is nil. Autobiography is inherently self-serving and rarely accurate. Please don't misunderstand me: I am not attempting to impugn your honesty or good intentions. I don't doubt that your great, great, great uncle, Daniel Boone, received rough handling as a child. That's a safe assumption; such treatment was standard at the time. But linking the spankings he received as a lad to his later contributions to America's nationhood is a bit of a stretch. I too had a great, great, great uncle. But his name is lost, his accomplishments, if any, are forgotten and the country where he lived, alas, no longer exists. Who knows what the map of Europe would look like today if only he had been spanked more! This discussion brings to mind a charming anecdote which my good friend Dr. Bob Fathman tells. "My grandparents were raised in houses which lacked indoor plumbing. They used outhouses. And they turned out just fine. Do outhouses get the credit?"


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