Pernicious effects of punishment Pernicious effects of punishment
By John J. B. Morgan
Excerpt from Child Psychology. Revised. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1940. (p. 178)

1) Trickery to outwit the adult. When a child's only inhibition against a misdeed is the fear that he will be caught and punished, he is strongly tempted to be more careful not to be caught the next time. Ask children trained in this manner why they should not commit a certain act and they will tell you in order to keep from getting caught. If they happen to be successful in outwitting authority... the situation becomes very serious.

2) Hatred of the adult. If the punishment takes the form of loss of affection or approval the reaction of the child is very likely to be hatred. He may at first try to win back the approval he has lost by good conduct, but if the punishment is even slightly overdone it is very likely to lead to hatred and a consequent attempt to retaliate. In a number of instances, we have encountered children who were most unsocial in their conduct because they had been made to suffer disapproval because of some trivial misdeed. Even if punishment had nothing more to condemn it than the danger of fostering hatred, this one fact is enough to call it into serious question.

3) Attitude of fear. If punishment is effective, the probable result is an attitude of fear which spreads to all phases of the child's life. In motor activity, this shows itself in "nervous" twitchings, incoordinations and uncertainty of movements. It is probably one of the largest factors in the production of defective speech. Worst of all, the child brought up in fear shows little originality or initiative in his thinking.

4) Cruelty and intolerance. The person who is most intolerant and cruel in his treatment of others is usually one who has been brought up on punishment. His attitude is one of resentment and, not being able to retaliate upon those who inflicted the punishment, he takes it out on others. This feeling is accentuated if the child feels that he deserved the punishment. While he admits that he deserves the punishment, it leaves a rankling which makes him totally unable to show consideration to other children and he becomes cruel in his treatment of them.

To be sure, none of these results is inevitable, but they are so probable that punishment becomes one of the most dangerous tools that the adult can use.

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