Tag Archives: criminal behaviour

Spanking ban

As long as I can remember, at least since the late 1990s, I am a (moderate) opponent of corporal punishment of children. In the debate about prohibiting this kind of child discipline, both sides have made both good and bad arguments. My position is that corporal punishment is not necessary, but in general also not very harmful if done properly. Until I came along an interesting article on Science Daily: College students more likely to be law breakers if spanked as children.

A study by Murray Strauss shows that university students who have been spanked as kids, even if they were raised in loving families, have a greater inclination towards criminal behaviour. Though Strauss affirms that children need guidance and discipline, physical punishment are not the way to achieve this.

But since I like to be the devil’s advocate, I want to formulate a possible point of critique. Strauss suggests that spanking causes criminal behaviour, or at least reinforces such behaviour. However, could it be possible that spanking is not the cause but instead the effect? Generally children got punished for misbehaviour, and crime is a kind of misbehaviour but enshrined by public law. If a person has a general inclination to misbehaviour all his/her life, it wouldn’t be surprising if that person would be both punished as a child as well inclined to commit crimes as an adult.

If that assumption would be true, there would be a statistical relation between spanking as a child and criminal behaviour, but not a causal one. This because both variables are in fact caused by a third variable. Of course, this is a hypothetical alternative explanation, but nevertheless not one you could easily put away.