From: Christopher Dugan, M.A. - Department of Biology, Arapahoe Community College - Littleton, Colorado
To: Hon. Nathan Miley - Chair, Public Safety Committee - City of Oakland
Re: Proposed "No-Spanking Zone"
I would like to express my support for the pending proposal to make Oakland a "no spanking zone."
Twenty years ago, Sweden became the first nation to ban spanking. Although this decision was widely ridiculed at the time, over half a dozen additional countries have now followed Sweden's lead and others are currently considering such a move. History will remember Sweden as having been at the cutting edge of history on this issue.
The City of Oakland now has the opportunity to become the first municipality in the USA to ban spanking - taking a leading role on the national stage comparable to Sweden's on the international stage. Please do not allow this opportunity to slip by.
Although spanking enjoys widespread popular support and is buttressed by generations of folk-wisdom, enough new research has emerged in recent years to justify banning the practice. An over-the-counter children's medication which was linked to as many negative long-term effects by as many studies as have implicated spanking would be taken off the shelves at once. The practice of spanking needs to be taken off of the child discipline "shelf" in the interests of the well-being of the next generation.
In particular, I would like to direct your attention to two recent longitudinal studies involving a combined sample of nearly 2000 children. One was performed by a research team lead by an opponent of spanking, Dr. Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire (Straus et al., 1997). The other was lead by a proponent of spanking, Dr. Maria Gunnoe (Gunnoe & Mariner, 1997). Despite their differing views on the subject, both research teams obtained similar results. In both studies, the more the children were spanked at the beginning of the study, the more their age-adjusted behavior had deteriorated years later at the end of the study. Due to the longitudinal design of these studies, the deterioration in behavior cannot have caused the spankings, since they were measured years earlier. Other relevant variables were controlled for, including age and sex of child, and socioeconomic status of family. Straus's group also controlled for maternal warmth and cognitive stimulation, while Gunnoe's group controlled for race. Both of these studies were published back-to-back in _Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine_ and were instrumental in the American Association of Pediatrics' decision last April to officially take a stand against all use of corporal punishment on children.
Although a ban on spanking might be politically unpopular at first, it is scientifically justified. When the welfare of children is at issue, it behooves us to err on the side of caution. A ban on spanking would be a prudent step.
If you would like to communicate with me further, please feel free to email me or call me at home. Thank you.
Gunnoe, M.L. & Mariner, C.L. 1997. "Toward a Developmental-Contextual Model of the effects of Parental Spanking on Children's Aggression." Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 151:768-775.
Straus, M.A.; Sugarman, D.B. and Giles-Sims, J. 1997. "Corporal Punishment by Parents and Subsequent Anti-Social Behavior of Children" Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine 151(8):761-767.