Professor’s Book Educates on the Mutual Harm of Spanking 

Jeremy Andrew, contributor

Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Professor Christina Erickson to talk about her new book “Spanked: How Hitting Our Children is Harming Ourselves” published by Oxford University Press. Erickson is the chair of the social work department as well as a practicing social worker. In her field, she has dealt with plenty of cases of parents who spank their children. “[Spanking is] the only sanctioned form, legal form, of hitting in any human relationship,” she said in our interview.

Her familiarity with spanking came much earlier than her research, as she was spanked as a child. This is a form of punishment that she had the urge to use when raising her own children. 

“I actually start the book with the day that I wanted to hit my own daughters,” shared Erickson.

These experiences motivated her to do research on the practice of spanking and answer the question that she was asking herself: as a nonviolent person and a deeply devoted parent, where did that impulse come from?

Her research doesn’t chart a path of personal self-discovery but one of historical and legal discovery, taking her as far back as Europe in 1600s when spanking in public schools was first recorded to the contemporary United States. 

Even in her own experience as a social worker, Erickson noted that there were no hard and fast rules about what level of spanking was acceptable and what was considered child abuse. She spoke about how there is a spectrum of parents who spank their children, from the ones who are extremely harsh and demeaning to those who tell their kids they love them all the time. Social workers are often left to their own devices in determining when spanking becomes child abuse, and her research led her to believe that this was not right.

“It’s really messy and I think really dangerous that we have these differences,” Erickson argued. “We need to just close that final gap of hitting.”

In trying to take that final step, her work has led her to thinking about how we can broaden the notion of human rights to include children. Erickson stated that in recent years there has been a studied silence when it comes to the topic of spanking.

 “Nobody was really willing to take a stand. A couple people did, but they were really ostracized when they said spanking is wrong.” 

But she remains hopeful and thinks that we are all capable of taking on the challenge of ending spanking. 

“It’s actually way harder to parent without hitting…but the payoff is so much better.”

Make sure to pick up your copy of Professor Erickson’s book “Spanked: How Hitting Our Children is Harming Ourselves” available on Amazon and at local booksellers.