Article “You Can’t Unhit a Child” Explores Lasting Effects of Corporal Punishment

Sarah Newman writes an insightful article on the lasting effects to a child’s psyche in “You Can’t Unhit a Child: Anxiety and Corporal Punishment” . The article discusses Ms. Newman’s own traumatic experiences of physical and verbal abuse, at the hands of her father, and a recent study from Duke University on corporal punishment.

Researchers at Duke University did a study on corporal punishment and found that the effects of hitting a child are lasting, and negatively impact a child’s relationship with their parent. The study found that even if a parent acts affectionate towards a child, it does not lessen the damage inflicted by corporal punishment. 

Duke University researchers interviewed more than 1,000 women and their children (ages 8-10) in 8 different countries. The results of the study can be found in the Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology.

Jennifer E. Lansford of the Social Science Research Institute at Duke, and lead study author, reports that children often feel “confused” when a parent hits them  “and then smooth things over gradually by smothering them with love.” The attachment between a parent and child is also harmed when a child does not know what to expect from a parent, and when fear is instilled into the parent-child bond.

Spanking has been linked to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and behavioral problems in children. Researchers found that once you hit a child, there is no way to undo the fear and “cognitive dissonance” it creates.

Sarah Newman says she was hit as a child by her father, and the impact left lasting emotional and psychological scars.  Newman said she did not understand what she was being punished for but she did understand the fear. Newman recalls, What hitting taught me was that a monster lived inside my father. I had to remember that or how would I avoid seeing the monster again? At the same time I had to forget it because I wasn’t allowed to treat him differently…” 

Newman also said she was forced to “forgive” her father after being hit, and was forced to show affection and act like everything is okay, when that was not what she truly thought or felt. Not being allowed to talk about being hit, or process what happened, made Newman question herself…if the incident really happened.. she describes it as “crazy making”.

Love and concern for a child cannot be translated into actions that do not communicate or demonstrate love. The article recommends using non-physical punishment, with the goal of teaching a child.

Title: “You Can’t Unhit a Child: Anxiety and Corporal Punishment” 

Author: Sarah Newman, MA (Psych Central)

LinkYou Can’t Unhit a Child: Anxiety and Corporal Punishment | World of Psychology.


American Humane Society, “steps to learn more about how you can help stop child abuse and neglect“:

Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with professional crisis counselors who have access to a database of tens of thousands of emergency, social service, and support resources. The service is available to anyone with a telephone: children who face confusion, parents in despair, mandatory reporters and other adults who are uncertain about the next best step when faced with questions related to abuse and neglect. All calls are anonymous. Contact them at 1.800.4.A.CHILD (1.800.422.4453).

Circle of Parents: “A friendly, supportive environment led by parents and other caregivers where anyone in a parenting role can openly discuss the successes and challenges of raising children.” (Visit the site and click on the map to find a group in your state). Also includes “Parenting Resources” tip sheet:

About Emily Court

It takes "Just Us" To Fight Injustice in Family Court. I blog to raise awareness about problems existing in the family court system, and use my own story as a personal example of how the systemic failures in family court, and the Guardian ad Litem Program, affect families, in an effort to encourage needed reform. Written by a survivor of domestic violence and homelessness working to create a better life for her children, in a stable home free of violence. In her efforts to rebuild her life, she has not only encountered harassment and intimidation from her alleged abuser but faced systematic failures in family court that have empowered her alleged abuser and put her children at risk. She has spent over a decade trapped in family court until her children finally aged out of the system. Through writing and blogging, FCI is working to raise awareness about domestic violence, and the urgent need for family court reform. She is currently working on a memoir titled "'Til Prayers Are Answered".
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1 Response to Article “You Can’t Unhit a Child” Explores Lasting Effects of Corporal Punishment

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