2021 Corporal Punishment Experiences and Its Impact Survey
According to the Ministry of Health and Welfare, 10 children were killed by caregivers in the first 6 months of 2021 due to child abuse. Over the past four years from 2017 to 2020, there were 89 little lives never having the chance to grow up.
In Taiwan, the most common form of child abuse is improper discipline. Last year, 4,522 out of 11,746 (38.5%) reported abusers inflicted child abuse because “they were used to conducting corporal punishment or improper discipline.” It was evident that there were still some parents inherited the belief “spare the rod spoil the child” or “punish you for your own good” from their parents. Although the parenting difficulties may be temporarily solved by the punishment, the impact on children later in life cannot be underestimated. More and more scientific researches showed that childhood experiences affect adulthood. Children who suffered corporal punishment may face higher risks of relational issues in their adulthood, including their parent-child relationship, interpersonal relationship, intimate partner violence, etc.
Child Welfare League Foundation (CWLF) Chief Executive Officer Li-Fang Pai explained the goals of consistently launching “Orange Ribbon | Love Children Zero Violence” campaign every year were: 11 years ago, there was a severe child abuse case where a 2-year-old boy was tortured to death, and the case had brought wide public attention. Besides offering our condolences, we started to deliberate on prevention. Therefore, we introduced the Orange Ribbon Movement from Japan in the same year and hoped to raise public awareness on the prevention of child abuse through our continued call for action. Many years have passed, but child abuse is still constantly occurring. In addition to our efforts of advocacy for primary prevention of child abuse via parenting and childcare support programs, we also hope to continue our work in changing the value and norm like “spare the rod spoil the child.” Through changing parenting styles in the home, we can give children an environment with zero violence.
Corporal punishment makes negative parent-child relationship persist into adulthood.
According to CWLF’s studies, corporal punishment would impact negatively on children in many aspects, making them feel less happy and have lower self-esteem, poorer parent-child relationship, higher chances of agreeing on using violence, and more aggressive behaviors (CWLF, 2016, 2018, 2020). This year, we delved deeper into corporal punishment’s long-term effect on children and conducted a survey, “Childhood Corporal Punishment Experience with Main Caregivers and its Impact on Relational Issues,[i]” on adults (over 18 years old). Respondents were asked to reflect on their childhood corporal punishment experiences with their main caregivers. The results showed that 83.0% of the respondents had received corporal punishment from their main caregivers. It was clear that corporal punishment was a shared childhood memory by everyone. Another heart-wrenching result showed over 30% respondents said in their childhood, they were constant victims of moderate or severe “injurious” corporal punishment. Further analysis showed that the more often corporal punishment was used, the less positive parenting methods the caregivers had applied. For instance, 80.3% of caregivers who do not use corporal punishment would encourage their children to express their views. Only 66.4% of caregivers who use corporal punishment would encourage their children to express their views.
For people who received corporal punishment and lack of positive parenting experiences, how were their relationships with their main caregivers after they grew up? The result showed that the more frequent and severer corporal punishment they had received from their main caregivers when they were children, the worse parent-child relationship they have with them now. They have lower level of intimacy and trust with the caregivers but higher level of anxiety. Even for people who received slight corporal punishment, the result showed also significant differences. Only 46.9% respondents who were once victims of corporal punishment responded that it was easy for them to approach their main caregivers. 25.3% respondents answered it was difficult for them to fully trust their main caregivers. 15.5% respondents often worried about not being loved by their main caregivers.We often hear parents say “I hit you because I love you” when they use corporal punishment on their children. However, according to the research, children who were hit did not seem to feel the love from their parents. They grew up with the scars and their parent-child relationships were also affected by the experiences.
Corporal punishment is not a lesson for children to learn. The trauma it causes can drastically affect children’s interpersonal relationships in adulthood.
In our survey, for respondents who had childhood corporal punishment experiences, 37.2% of them found it very difficult to trust other people completely, while 31.4% worried that other people would not love them. These numbers were much higher than those without corporal punishment experiences (26.3% with trust issues; 24.2% worried about not being love).
These victims of corporal punishment also have higher chances of entering cycle of intimate partner violence relationships. It seemed that the childhood corporal punishment experiences would lead these people to think violence in relationship is acceptable. Their childhood corporal punishment experiences tend to be replicated and transferred to their intimate relationships in forms of using violence to solve problems, while they became either the perpetrators or victims of violence. 21.6% of respondents who had corporal punishment experiences would push or hit their partners, while 15.6% respondents had been pushed or hit by their partners. These numbers were also significantly higher than those without corporal punishment experiences.
“Orange Ribbon | Love Children Zero Violence” is not just a campaign slogan, but an action to replace negative corporal punishment with positive parenting.
Li-Fang indicated that positive parenting includes complimenting children when they show good behaviors, encouraging children to express their views, providing reasons when we ask children to do things so that they would know why. Parents who understand positive parenting better would not need to use corporal punishment to discipline. What we were pleased to find in the survey was that 78.2% respondents agreed that “however light or however hard, corporal punishment is a form of violence;” 78.7% people agreed “corporal punishment would lower children’s self-esteem;” 54.9% people agreed “whatever reasons you have, corporal punishment on children should not be used.” Compared with the results of annual surveys from 2014 to 2020, the percentages of people agreeing on corporal punishment have dropped progressively, which meant more and more people do not favor using corporal punishment. This year’s survey showed that compared with other age groups, the youngest adult group (18-25y) in the survey significantly disapproved of corporal punishment. We believe that corporal punishment was just an option parents believed to be the only option they had. With more understandings of the negative impact corporal punishment has and more promotion of positive parenting, the level of acceptance to corporal punishment in Taiwan will progressively decrease.
That is why we continue promoting “Orange Ribbon | Love Children Zero Violence” campaigns every year. Not only have we advocated against hitting children, but we also invited multidisciplinary experts to teach positive parenting skills. We provided useful tools and encouraged parents to replace corporal punishment with positive parenting. For our campaign this year (2021), we launched an activity called “Parent-Child Account.” We invite parents and children to set up their parent-child accounts and document their daily interactions with each other, including happy moments and moments they have conflicts against each other. Based on the increase or decrease of hearts in their accounts, parents can examine whether their parenting style is appropriate for the children and from there they come up with more appropriate ways to interact. With the parent-child accounts, parents and children can save a lot of memories and positive relationships.
[i] From September 17 to October 18, 2021, CWLF conducted a convenience sampling online survey on people over 18 years old in Taiwan and received 1,167 responses.