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May 29Liked by Emil O. W. Kirkegaard

Now I'm waiting for the article

"Is spanking your wife good or bad for her?"

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Extreme abuse is awful, is relatively common, and very hard to detect.

This is why mainstream advice is to not spank your child at all. A lot of research is guided by the logic above, and not the other way around.

My own experience (n=3) is that:

1) children in identical environments vary massively in their behaviour

2) there is a sweet spot where occasional, brief spanking can have an effect

3) once you start, spanking children comes very easily and should you need to resist the urge in the large majority of cases

4) it’s only effective for a child over 3 and under 6. It’s a short window.

5) your children will remember the spanking but not the behaviour that precipitated it

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This seems about right. Other than I'm not sure about the "under 6" part, I think it might extend a little longer than that, depending on the child.

I've applied spanking on 2 occasions when my son was defiant in the face of time-out. Per your #5, I'm sure he doesn't remember WHY he was spanked, but after the second time, it sank in that spanking is a much worse punishment than time-out and he thus became responsive to the words "If you won't sit in time out RIGHT NOW, you're going to get a spanking."

We also use this word "children" but spanking is clearly mostly for boys, a daughter probably needs to be at minimum +2 SDs above the mean in defiance and misbehavior before spanking might be warranted. A friend with 4 boys and 4 girls tells me that he's never come remotely close to having to spank a daughter, but each of his boys was spanked at least a time or two growing up.

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What makes you say that "extreme abuse" is common??

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It makes sense to me that bad kids are more likely to get spanked. I've seen this in my friend's kids, it is so much easier to parent an otherwise good kid, but it's the ones who just won't listen and continue to behave in negative ways that are more likely to get spanked.

I'm also skeptical of claims by neurotic leftists that they were traumatized by being spanked as a kid for several reasons: 1) they're looking at the situation from the perspective of an adult, not a misbehaving child 2) Memory is constructive, so it seems to me that if you didn't like your parents for some reason, you'd be picking out instances where they did you wrong and potentially blowing them out of proportion 3) these same people tend to be highly neurotic and prone to negative emotion, and likely overemphasize how traumatized they are by any specific incident. To get a clearer sense of spanking/life outcomes it seems you'd want to know how many otherwise normal, functioning adults were spanked as kids.

I will also say as a professional horse trainer that punishment definitely has a place although a small one. I think the bigger issue is clarity about pressure and release cues, but well-timed and clear punishment can often extinguish a "bad" behavior in only a handful of iterations. It's considered unethical by many in the horse world nowadays, but it seems to me that if it cures a potentially dangerous problem and enables the horse to go on being a functional member of human society it's worth it. I will say I've seen far more difficult horses that were raised by overly nurturing amateur ladies with poor boundaries that I've ever seen by tougher trainers. Horses respond very poorly to lack of clarity and overly "nice" interactions with humans, particularly when they're young and still learning how to behave in a human environment.

I will add that we're breeding horses in such a way that they are easier and easier to handle and train. It is well known and accepted in the horse world that this behavior is largely genetic, knowledgeable horse people will seek out bloodlines known for producing certain characteristics that they desire, whether it's speed, size, or in this case temperament.

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My own view is that, given the sheer wrongness of blank-slatists on every matter of consequence throughout history, any position which descends from their axioms is best assumed wrong unless thoroughly proven otherwise. That certainly applies in the case of corporal punishment, whether as discipline or for criminal punishment, as the justification of it's absentation reek of post facto logic. Especially given that the whole concept of rehabilitation is a farce, as one can never truly know whether or not another has taken it up sincerely or fallaciously. Nor should it be of any concern to the general public whether or not bad behavior has changed out of a genuine desire to do good or merely a fear of consequence, as the results of the presence or absence of bad behavior are the only metrics that are relevant to those whom are neither family nor intimates of the misbehavor.

As usual, I much appreciate this essay, Emil. It's nice to know there's still Continentals who know how fucked up things have gotten and whom have the intellectual horsepower to make a difference at undoing the damage.

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May 29·edited May 29

Controlled, limited punishment followed by reassurance is a completely different thing than blows from a parent or pet owner who is enraged or out-of-control.

In a survey they may look similar. From the perspective of a child. however, the first is an unpleasant incident with a discernable and avoidable cause. The second threatens the child's basic sense of self and safety with its caregivers and the world at large.

The research on spanking is contradictory and confusing because the physical act is almost a red herring. What matters is how it is perceived and processed. Is it simply an unpleasant ripple in a secure and loving relationship, or is the parent threatening the child's very sense of self as a loved being in the world?

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caning / flogging is probably more efficient and humane than imprisonment.

incarceration is still needed to unfixable repeat criminals, for whom caning isn't enough and society need to be protected from

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> incarceration is still needed to unfixable repeat criminals, for whom caning isn't enough and society need to be protected from

That's what the death penalty is for.

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I think that incarceration was often simply a place to restrain someone until their execution.

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I had long viewed incarceration as having evolved from simply being a place to hold a common criminal (or just one who has run afoul of the authority in control of the area) until they could publicly administer punishment, whether caning or capital punishment. I mean, we can't sentence someone to 20 lashes in public, then release them on their own recognizance, can we?

Just a holding tank, seldom intended as the punishment, itself.

All of this applies only to the common man; those of social distinction would be treated differently.

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interesting. have you looked into the historical evidence to find so?

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https://daily.jstor.org/the-invention-of-incarceration/

https://www.crimemuseum.org/crime-library/famous-prisons-incarceration/history-of-imprisonment/

It seems pretty obvious, doesn't it? Only in relatively modern times has the idea of reclamation of criminals emerged. Prior to that, official punishment was a combination of revenge and deterrence.

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great links. thanks a million

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Caning may be better than fines, but it does not incapacitate the criminal like imprisonment does.

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I grew up being slapped in the face till my ear rings, while my brother (10 years younger) was never even spanked. The sample size is 2 here, but he is a much more difficult kid than I was at his age. I do wonder whether it's physical punishment that makes the difference, or whether it is "gentle parenting" (which includes the lack of physical punishment) in general that is the problem.

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Consider that you and your brother have different genetics.

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Good point, but also our upbringings are so entirely different (basically there is an immigration in between, he was raised by Western standards, I wasn't) that it's hard to imagine nurture doesn't play a big role in it

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"Good point, but also our upbringings are so entirely different (basically there is an immigration in between, he was raised by Western standards, I wasn't) that it's hard to imagine nurture doesn't play a big role in it."

Maybe the disparity in your upbringing was due to your disparity in genetics. It is hard to tell from your situation. I am not a big believer in free will.

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Boy, oh boy. We could have a very interesting discussion on free will vs determinism!

I've come to see the situation as one of scope: on the big things we are more governed by determinism, but on the smaller, day-to-day things it is mostly free will, or what appears to be free will. It consists of making smaller-to-mediium sized choices.

Of course, one can argue that one is genetically pre-disposed to exercise free choice more than another who goes thru life passively.

It's a conundrum.

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"Boy, oh boy. We could have a very interesting discussion on free will vs determinism!"

WelI, I believe in determinism because it is hard to believe that people make life choices that are highly deleterious to their lives. Some examples are a life of crime, pedophilia, homosexuality*, cruelty, sadism/masochism, murder, and such. Those who commit harmful actions toward others must be removed from society. Why would people not do things they want to do? Why would people do things they don't want to do?

* Homosexuality is not nearly as harmful as it once was; there was a time when homosexuals were beaten and killed.

"I've come to see the situation as one of scope: on the big things we are more governed by determinism, but on the smaller, day-to-day things it is mostly free will, or what appears to be free will. It consists of making smaller-to-mediium sized choices."

Yes, choosing an ice cream flavor or route to work may appear as free will...but you always have a favorite.

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But how did I determine a favorite?

At the nitpicking level, one could say that genetically my taste receptors were more positively responsive to chocolate, e.g., but to me, personally this gets damned close to contemplating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin: even if the angels exist, who cares? Operationally, in your daily life, it does not matter.

But as to:

"WelI, I believe in determinism because it is hard to believe that people make life choices that are highly deleterious to their lives. "

Yes, but not all such choices are negative in some potential environments.

E.g., in a non-moral sense, should we judge homosexuality the same way on board a 3 year voyage in the late 1500s or in a men's prison, as in an open and free society whose population is shrinking? One the one hand, it's an expected and probably beneficial outlet (maybe), on the other hand, it's deleterious to the survival of the society as a whole.

I'm trying to take morality out of this, R. I have my own moral outlook for all of these things and I'll bet it's very close to yours. But I have come to see morality--i.e., moral values that are not encoded in law or binding custom--as subjective and non-binding on society. E.g., how I feel about homosexuality I do not expect that all others I deal with will feel the same about it. However, for sanctity of private property (encoded into law), I DO feel that it's binding.

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you’ ll have difficulties later, he won’t:) children should not obey like slaves

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Children, likely more the boys, were beaten at schools in earlier days, because they wouldn't listen, were nasty or couldn't sit still for hours. Today we are so much softer, kinder, more civilised and more sensitive about physical punishment, therefore now we sedate them with drugs and call it "medication".

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May 29·edited May 29

The humiliation is *the point* of spanking on the behind. The idea is that the shame eventually gets internalized as guilt, and becomes part of the "inner parent"/superego that prevents repeats of the behaviour that gave rise to the spanking.

It's not about the physical pain at all, although enough of that helps make the incident memorable, as in Benvenuto Cellini's story about he (as a small child) and his father seeing a salamander in the fire.

Is Hanania having a "I cannot brain today" day, that this is not immediately obvious?

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I tend to agree that positive, controlled, deliberate spanking works exactly as you say.

I was spanked only once in my life. I was born in the 40s and spanking was commonplace. I was maybe 3-4 and consciously refused to put my toys away after my mom had repeatedly asked, then told, me to. My dad quickly got up out of his chair--and this very quick response was actually a part of the impressiveness of it, I can now see--grabbed my, sat back down and swung me over his knee and swatted me sharply on my rump maybe three time, and very sternly said: "Listen to what your mother tells you."

I was shocked and I sniveled somewhat, but I wanted no more of this sort of thing and that was the last of it. My younger brother similarly reports another such single experience with spanking, also for steadfast refusal of parental instructions.

Looking back, I can see that I was testing my unformed will (id) against the rules of my parents (super-ego), as enforced by my dad's ego. :^)

I liked my parents, both of them.

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> The humiliation is *the point* of spanking on the behind.

I don't think that's true. I think the point is the same thing that was mentioned for mother dogs and cats - you want to hurt the child without inflicting any lasting injury. The butt is basically just a bunch of padding. If you hit too hard, the worst thing that will happen is that you break the skin.

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That's ridiculous. The butt is the place you can slap that will cause the least harm or pain, that's all. There's no bones, and no organs right beneath the skin, and a bunch of padding from muscle and fat. Don't read so much into it, there is literally no other place you can hit a person that will cause less damage. Everywhere else on your body has bones or organs right under the skin, and are easily damaged.

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I'd say both humiliation and physical pain contribute to the negative reinforcement effect.

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Thanks for writing this, I've been wanting to write a similar piece on physical punishment of kids and dogs, and you saved me the trouble -- mine would've been much more bombastic.

To me, the only evidence I need is that kids were spanked (or worse) in every single society throughout the entirety of history, up til the last 30 years, and it's only now that none of them have any fear of violence that they all claim to be traumatized and wounded by basically everything in life. And it's only now that teachers regularly report kids swearing at them, throwing things at them, attacking them in class, etc.

And how about looking at more obvious outcomes, like whether or not children who know they will never be spanked -- who even threaten their parents with calling CPS at the very idea -- are obnoxious brats who behave badly? Surely I'm not the only one who sees kids out in public behaving in an atrocious manner -- usually treating their own parents terribly -- and wishing those parents would give them a smack. I don't recall ever being hit or spanked as a child (if I was, I don't remember), but it was certainly an implied threat and I knew that it could happen, and not just from my parents but potentially by babysitters, teachers, neighbors, friend's parents, etc. Children nowadays have the expectation that no one can really do anything to punish them, other than take things away. In schools there's nothing to take, since getting kicked out of class is a reward (it's not like they have to fear what will happen when their parents find out).

The blank slate-ism is literally insane, to the point of being dangerous, when it comes to dogs. Women with dogs have gone nuts, and most veterinarians and trainers are now women. Forget physical punishment...many of them don't believe in ANY type of negative reinforcement at all. Not even a "no". Not even a vibrating collar. Not even spraying a dog with a mister. Not using an aversive noise. They consider any of those things abusive. Want to get piled on by a bunch of frothing-at-the-mouth psychos? Go onto a popular dog forum on Facebook or Instagram and suggest using even the mildest aversive for training.

Worse, they fully believe that dog behavior is 100% how they're raised and 0% inborne temperament. If a dog has any natural aggression, it can only be because they've been abused. They think there's no difference between a Rottweiler and a Golden Retriever. So now you've got all these people who adopt pitbulls and insist that it's just prejudice and they're no different from a Corgi, and if their pitbull misbehaves it MUST be because of abuse before they were adopted, even though they got it when it was 8 weeks old. The fact that dogs aren't even a naturally evolved animal but were created and bred by humans to have particular temperaments for particular tasks does not phase them.

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Spanking is something on which I place zero credibility on academic research and high credibility on the centuries of human experience and on common sense. Is it even worth talking about the studies? It just gives them some legitimacy. We know that much of social psychology is faked and most of the rest is bogus.

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He who spares the rod hates his son.

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I think the meta discussion in Bauman & Friedman (1998) still holds up:

> Each can find articles and studies to cite in the service of their arguments. The research results are contradictory, in part because the methods are flawed, in part because conclusions are not always justified by the data, and in part because conclusions of a few studies on unusual samples are generalized inappropriately.

> Based on this article, it seems that most studies suffer severe methodological problems. Those that have external validity, that is, with representative samples of children prospectively studied over a long period of time, have generated contradictory results

> The inevitable conclusion from a critical, objective review of the scientific research on corporal punishment is that the data are inadequate to permit a conclusion on either its effectiveness or its negative consequences.

Bauman, L. J., & Friedman, S. B. (1998). Corporal punishment. Pediatric clinics of North America, 45(2), 403-414. DOI: 10.1016/S0031-3955(05)70015-8. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0031-3955(05)70015-8

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As a sort of overarching frame, are people here considering the topic of corporal punishment in conjunction with B. F. Skinner's work as it relates to behavior modification?

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Of course, corporal punishment presupposes a significant amount of free will on the part of the child.

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No? I mean, why would corporal punishment presuppose more free will than generic punishment? Also, you can train pets by swatting them. Like, not to injure them, but with a sandal. Little Einstein is smarter than Fido (maybe) but still trainable.

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"No? I mean, why would corporal punishment presuppose more free will than generic punishment?"

I said nothing about generic punishment, but both would presuppose free will.

"Also, you can train pets by swatting them. Like, not to injure them, but with a sandal. Little Einstein is smarter than Fido (maybe) but still trainable."

You don't train people; you teach them! Yes, you can cause animals, people included, to do or not do something by threatening or punishing them. But that does not prove they have free will. It only causes them to do as commanded, but when the threat is not around them, they will do as they please.

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I think a lot of people who got a little slap as a kid would say that it 'did them no harm', but I think in the broader context, if it didn't happen you may have a different view on things. I understand the arguments for and against, but feel that the world is far more aware now of the impacts on mental health from a trauma point of view. I'd say that debate will rage on until the last generation of 'disciplined' kids has passed away. At that stage, the debate may not exist, but the children of today may be different adults in the future.

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Briefly, I think that trauma as a background cause is 'way over-rated.

FWIW...

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Notice how "trauma" only started showing up as a problem once spanking stopped.

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Well, we've now had several generations of increasingly 'undisciplined' kids and one can see the results on any campus.

Honestly once society becomes 'undisciplined' enough the next generation will grown up semi-disciplined simply because sufficiently undisciplined parents won't be able to resist the urge to lash out at misbehaving kids.

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