Spanking and Mental Health
Herbert A. Falk, Ph.D., Corporal Punishment: A Social Interpretation of its Theory and Practice in the Schools of the United States, Bureau of Publications, Teachers College, Columbia University, 1941. pp. 144-45
Before concluding the discussion on the practice of and attitudes toward corporal punishment, some comment should be made on the emphasis of the psychoanalytic school and the mental hygiene movement in so far as they are relevant to the problem on hand. The emphases of psychoanalysis have a definite bearing on the problem of corporal punishment. One need not necessarily subscribe to all the assumptions and conclusions of that school in order to grant the validity of the interpretations with respect to corporal punishment. The assumption is that impulses are the mainspring of human activities and that when they are thwarted, perversions are likely to result. This is by no means confined to the psychoanalytic school of thought. The danger that subjecting children to corporal punishment may result in a feeling of inferiority, and abnormal compensatory activities, such as daydreaming, evasiveness, etc., is real indeed. The literature on corporal punishment written from the psychoanalytic point of view especially stresses the dangers of masochism. Thus Schohaus writes:It is well known that corporal punishment may lead to a pathological displacement of erotic impulses. The new psychology suggests that masochistic tendencies may already be found in children. By this term is to be understood the phenomenon that some people derive sexual pleasure from pain, that they like it to be given by others, and especially by those they love. If this perverse erotic tendency is established, it may in later years lead to severe mental disturbances and tragic inhibitions which may continue throughout life. One should not exaggerate these dangers, but they exist nevertheless, and there are a great many more persons who suffer from masochistic sexual difficulties than the lay public is commonly aware. 1The importance of the early experiences of the child in determining his permanent character traits are relevant in connection with the recent tendency on the part of some teachers and parents to limit the infliction of corporal punishment to infancy and early childhood. Granted the importance of the early experiences of the individual, a point of view not necessarily limited to writers of the psychoanalytic school, the practice of corporal punishment in the case of young children would be open to even greater criticism than its infliction upon older ones.
1. Willi Schohaus, The Dark Places in Education, 1932
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