Physical punishment changes children's brains

, medical expert
Last reviewed: 23.04.2024

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17 June 2021, 09:00

Physical punishment, even in mild form, has the same adverse effect on the brain development of children as violent abuse. This is confirmed by research conducted by researchers at Harvard University.

Currently, there are many different parenting systems. The use of force, from light spanking to whipping, is considered one of the oldest punishments for actions. From a scientific point of view, such "upbringing" has a predominantly negative impact and, over time, leads to irreparable and serious consequences for the child.

The use of corporal punishment by adults , which causes children pain and physical discomfort, is common in many countries around the world, despite the prohibition of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. According to statistics, only in the United States in almost every second family periodically practice this type of "upbringing". Society is ambivalent about this issue: some express an extremely negative opinion, while others do not see any other way out of the situation. Scientists are sure that bodily harm always has a detrimental effect on a child, even if it is a mild form of exposure. According to research, there is a strong relationship between physical abuse and the development of anxiety or depression, cognitive problems, mental disorders throughout life, even in remote periods. At the neuroscience level, physical punishment has been reported to be as hard on children as extreme forms of violence.

Scientists studied information about several hundred children aged 3-11 years who lived in families that do not practice severe forms of violence. Experts performed an MRI scan of the brain for all the children tested : during the procedure, the children were asked to look at a screen with a demonstration of people with different manifestations of emotions. With the help of a scanner, scientists recorded the features of the brain activity of children at the time of reaction to a particular facial expression of the actors. Children to whom parents applied physical methods of education showed an increased reaction to negative images on the screen. In particular, increased activity of the lateral and medial prefrontal cortex was manifested, including the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex, the bilateral frontal pole, and the left middle frontal gyrus.

The information received indicates that physical punishment can redirect nervous system reactions in a negative direction, in the same way as it happens in more severe forms of abuse.

Experts recommend abandoning such methods of exposure in order to avoid negative and long-term effects on the child. Psychologists advise replacing spanking with conversations that teach the baby to control and manage his behavior.

More information about the study can be found on the страницеpage

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