News Stories

Motherly Aggression

Spanking can cause children to grow up to beaggressive and abusive adults, according to psychologistElizabeth Thompson Gershoff of the National Center forChildren in Poverty at Columbia University, who analyzed 88different studies on spanking.

Spanking works - it's usually followed by immediate obedience.But it's also linked with aggression, antisocial behaviorand abuse of children and spouses in adulthood. "There isgeneral consensus that corporal punishment is effective ingetting children to comply immediately, while at the sametime there is caution from child abuse researchers thatcorporal punishment, by its nature, can escalate intophysical maltreatment," Gershoff says.

But she doesn?t think physical punishment automaticallymeans a child will grow up to be a violent adult. "The actof corporal punishment itself is different across (thespectrum of) parents?parents vary in how frequently they useit, how forcefully they administer it, how emotionallyaroused they are when they do it, and whether they combineit with other techniques," she says.

It?s been discovered that mothers who breast-feed theirnewborns for longer periods of time are less likely to abusethem. "The longer the mother breast-fed her infant, the lesslikely her risk of being reported for subsequent abuse,"says Dr. Lane Strathearn of the Baylor College of Medicine.

Strathearn says that the shorter the period of time womenspent breast-feeding, the more likely their children are tosuffer neglect and physical abuse. He bases this on surveysof 7,695 mothers about how long they breast-fed theirinfants. Time periods ranged from not at all to longer than6 months. Data were then collected over 14 years to see ifthe children became victims of abuse.

Strathearn found that babies who were breast-fed until theywere at least 4 months old were much less likely to beabused than those who were breast-fed for shorter periods ornot at all. He found that breast-feeding infants for lessthan 4 months was the strongest predictor of whether thoseinfants would be the subject of substantiated reports ofabuse. Other risk factors for child abuse included having amother who was a single parent, having a mother who had alow education level, and having a mother who was a bingedrinker.

Breast-feeding increases the levels of oxytocin in amother?s body. Studies with animals have shown thatincreased levels of oxytocin can strengthen a mother's bondwith her infant. Even just the act of breast-feeding canaffect the relationship between mother and child. Strathearnsays, "Through this process of breast-feeding, the mother islearning to be responsive to the infant's needs."

Don't spank your Indigo children?learn to understand them.Read "The Indigo Children" and "An Indigo Celebration" byLee Carroll and Jan Tober,click here.

To read about spanking,clickhere.

To read about breastfeeding,clickhere.

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