March 15th, 2008

toddler fun: whefl

Latest solution to the only-one-e problem: WHEFL.

I loved it. He hated it.

This morning, he was saying some letters repeatedly. It took a minute for me to focus. He was saying, B-E-L-L.

I have no idea why, but when I understood him, I said, "You're spelling bell. B-E-L-L bell. He smiled and went on to something else. Might have been saying W, which sounds like dual u (no b pronounced in the middle of a word yet, altho he gets it as an initial consonant). R. could not understand it without prompting.

I'm in the middle of _Beating the Devil Out of Them_, the second book I own on corporal punishment (first was Greven's more historical work). Straus has been in the news lately with stats on corporal punishment when a child and coerced sex/risky sex, IIRC. He's local -- at UNH.

I figured it would be useful to have read this (or I suppose reread the Greven) before book group on Monday when we talk about _Under the Banner of Heaven_, given the details of the Lafferty's upbringing in particular, and Mormon upbringing in general.

_Beating the Devil Out of Them_, Murray A. Straus

Subtitle: Corporal Punishment in American Families and Its Effect on Children
co-author: Denise A. Donnelly, and several others on individual chapters

I read the revised edition (2001), 2nd printing (2004). The original is from 1994. This one has an extra chapter, additional front matter and some other bits. Part of the additional front matter explains the trouble Straus had with his original publisher, the various media companies which successfully bought his publisher(s) and his inability to get the original book listed in any publisher catalog, much less otherwise promoted or even reviewed. He's a bit cranky on the subject, altho not bitter. He has a lot of confidence that he's going to win in the long run, and I think it's justified.

Ending corporal punishment by demonstrating that (a) it does not work (b) other techniques work as well in the immediate term and better in the long term and (c) has horrible lasting effects is Straus' life work. He's done quite a lot of research himself on the subject, with a variety of assistants; he's at UNH out here and clearly has a stable of students working with him on the subject. Some of the studies have been cross-cultural. Some have been prospective. He's also picked thru other people's work on the topic, and extracted data from other large studies that can be re-analyzed in this context.

I haven't tracked back through any of his citations, so I can't say in any detail if he's honest about how he represents the work of others, except when it so happens I've already read that work -- which was most conspicuous in the case of Greven's _Spare the Child_.

In addition to the basic social science research and interpretation, Straus has some specific recommendations aimed at people looking to use this information to effect social change. He describes what a variety of parenting and child advocacy organizations are already doing, and points out some strategies for child development experts and parent educators (who its pretty clear he feels should be stepping up to the plate). While he draws information from other countries (notably Sweden), he is quite conservative about how they should and should not be applied here.

There are some really startling results here (the one I hadn't ever seen was the cognitive effects of spanking toddlers) as well as the usual (spanking kids results in aggression, violence, depression, crime, delinquency, drug use, wife beating, lower earning power, masochistic sex, blah blah blah).

Should you read it? That's a tough one. On one level, dude, this is social science research. As a general rule, unless you're being compensated somehow for slogging through this stuff, stay away. But the topic is truly worthy, and not just for parents. We were all kids once and odds on, we were beat. This is some eye opening stuff. If you find studies and data compelling, this is a worthy entry. If you're okay with more qualitative analysis, I found Greven a more engaging read -- but he doesn't have numbers.

I'm off to find out if there are more books on this topic. I have _Reading, Writing and the Hickory Stick_ unread upstairs, so it will probably be the next one I read, but it would be nice to have something a little more current.