Has the Spanking Ban in Sweden Led to a 500% Increase in Child Abuse?

michael pearl

Michael Pearl

In today’s mail came the March-April 2015 edition of Michael and Debi Pearl’s No Greater Joy Magazine. This issue featured an article written by Michael Pearl titled Attack on Traditional Child Training. In the article, Pearl gives numerous statistics that are meant to bolster his, if you love your children, you’ll beat them” viewpoint.

On page 13, Pearl writes:

Jason M. Fuller of the University of Akron Law School says that Sweden is”. . . an ideal laboratory to study spanking bans,” for a generation ago it became the first nation to impose a complete ban on physical discipline.

According to Fuller, police reports indicate that since the spanking ban, child-abuse rates in Sweden have exploded over 500 percent. Even just one year after the ban took effect, and after a massive government-run public education campaign, Fuller found that “not only were Swedish parents resorting to pushing, grabbing, and shoving more than U.S. parents, but they were also beating their children twice as often.”

After a decade of the ban, “rates of physical child abuse in Sweden had risen to three times the U.S. rate,” and “from 1979 to 1994. Swedish children under seven endured an almost six-fold increase in physical abuse,” Fuller’s analysis revealed.

More than half of Swedish schoolchildren are undergoing some sort of therapy in an effort to solve learning problems.

Something smelled quite fishy to me, so I decided to check out Pearl’s claims about Sweden. Come to find out, the increases are likely to be the result of increased reporting of child abuse and violence against children. According to Joan E Durrant, a “Child-Clinical Psychologist and Professor in the Department of Family Social Sciences at the University of Manitoba”:

…The claim that child abuse has increased in Sweden is primarily based on misinterpretation of assault report statistics. It is the case that reporting of child physical assault has increased in Sweden since the 1970s – as it has in every nation that has raised awareness of the issue of child abuse. Reporting rates are by no means equivalent to rates of actual abuse. They are sharp reflections of, and strongly tied to shifts in public awareness.

For example, in the early 1960s, it was estimated that about 300 children were being maltreated in the U.S. By 1990, the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect had officially recorded 2.4 million reported cases. By 1993, they had recorded almost 3 million cases. It is highly unlikely that actual child maltreatment increased by a factor of 10,000 in that period. It is also highly unlikely that only 300 children were maltreated in the U.S. in the early 1960s.

It is a well-known fact that when mandatory reporting laws, public education campaigns, and other measures are implemented to increase awareness, reporting will increase. This is the goal of such measures. The Swedish reporting figures have been cited as if they are actual rates of abuse, which they are not.

The Swedish National Crime Prevention Council examined 434 cases of assaults on young children within the family that were reported to the police in 1990 (all cases) and 1997 (every other case). It was found that the proportion of cases involving serious injuries sustained by children in this age range had decreased substantially. The majority of reported assaults result in minor injuries or no injuries at all. On the basis of an extensive analysis of the data, the National Crime Prevention Council concluded that there has been an increase in the propensity to report cases of assault on young children, and that it is this increase that is responsible for most, if not all, of the rise in the number of such offenses reported to the police. (Nilsson, 2000, p. 68)…

Child Abuse in Sweden by Joan E Durrant

It came as no surprise to me that Michael Pearl cherry-picked and manipulated statistics to bolster his pro child abuse agenda. What did surprise me is Pearl using a passage from a January 7, 2010 NewsMax article by Theodore Kettle. According to the No Greater Joy article, Attack on Traditional Child Training is “taken from a new chapter in the upcoming 21st anniversary edition of To Train Up a Child.” Here’s the paragraph from Kettle’s article:

A key focus of the work of Jason M. Fuller of the University of Akron Law School was Sweden, which 30 years ago became the first nation to impose a complete ban on physical discipline and is in many respects “an ideal laboratory to study spanking bans,” according to Fuller.

Since the spanking ban, child abuse rates in Sweden have exploded over 500 percent, according to police reports. Even just one year after the ban took effect, and after a massive government public education campaign, Fuller found that “not only were Swedish parents resorting to pushing, grabbing, and shoving more than U.S. parents, but they were also beating their children twice as often.”

After a decade of the ban, “rates of physical child abuse in Sweden had risen to three times the U.S. rate” and “from 1979 to 1994, Swedish children under seven endured an almost six-fold increase in physical abuse,” Fuller’s analysis revealed.

Is this plagiarism? I don’t know. Maybe Pearl used a paragraph he had written before Kettle’s article. Maybe it is Kettle plagiarizing Pearl. At best, the two paragraphs are quite similar. At worst, someone lifted a paragraph without giving attribution.

My position on spanking is clear. While I highly doubt that a smack of toddlers’ hands or a swat on their diaper-padded rear ends will harm them, I think using violence to discipline children sends the wrong message, is unnecessary, and can, in the wrong hands, lead to child abuse. There are better ways to discipline children than beating them with a paddle, switch, hairbrush, belt, wooden spoon, hand, or whatever is handy. (My next-to-oldest son is fond of telling the story about his Dad spanking him with John R. Rice’s book, The Home.)

Michael and Debi Pearl’s version of “proper” punishment is much more violent than  “a smack of a toddler’s hand or a swat on their diaper padded rear end.”  The Pearl’s promotes child abuse. If you doubt this, here’s a  quotes complied by Libby Anne from Michael and Debi Pearl’s  book To Train Up a Child:

The Pearls recommend whipping infants only a few months old on their bare skin. They describe whipping their own 4 month old daughter (p.9). They recommend whipping the bare skin of “every child” (p.2) for “Christians and non-Christians” (p.5) and for “every transgression” (p.1). Parents who don’t whip their babies into complete submission are portrayed as indifferent, lazy, careless and neglectful (p.19) and are “creating a Nazi” (p.45).

On p.60 they recommend whipping babies who cannot sleep and are crying, and to never allow them “to get up.” On p.61 they recommend whipping a 12 month old girl for crying. On p.79 they recommend whipping a 7 month old for screaming.

On p.65 co-author Debi Pearl whips the bare leg of a 15 month old she is babysitting, 10 separate times, for not playing with something she tells him to play with. On p.56 Debi Pearl hits a 2 year old so hard “a karate chop like wheeze came from somewhere deep inside.”

On p.44 they say not to let the child’s crying while being hit to “cause you to lighten up on the intensity or duration of the spanking.” On p.59 they recommend whipping a 3 year old until he is “totally broken.”

On p.55 the Pearls say a mother should hit her child if he cries for her.

On p.46 the Pearls say that if a child does obey before being whipped, whip them anyway. And “if you have to sit on him to spank him, then do not hesitate. And hold him there until he is surrendered. Prove that you are bigger, tougher.” “Defeat him totally.”  On p.80 they recommend giving a child having a tantrum “a swift forceful spanking.” On the same page they say to whip small children on their bare skin until they stop screaming. “Don’t be bullied. Give him more of the same.” They say to continue whipping until their crying turns into a “wounded, submissive whimper.”

On p.47 they recommend their various whips, including “a belt or larger tree branch” to hit children.

The Pearls  recommend pulling a nursing infant’s hair (p.7), and describe tripping their non-swimming toddler so she falls into deep water (p.67).  They recommend ignoring an infant’s bumped head when he falls to the floor, and ignoring skinned knees (p.86). They also say “if your child is roughed-up by peers, rejoice.” (p.81)  And on p.103 the Pearls say if children lose their shoes, “let them go without until they (the children) can make the money to buy more.”

Note

There seems to be a lot of contention over the aforementioned statistics.

Another study by Robert E Larzelere, published online 2010

Link to Joan E Durrant’s study, Evaluating the Success of Sweden’s Corporal Punishment Ban (PDF)

Link to Jason M. Fuller’s article,The Science and Statistics Behind Spanking Suggest that Laws Allowing Corporal Punishment are in the Best Interests of the Child

Bruce, you subscribe to No Greater Joy Magazine? Yep, it’s free. Know your enemy!

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5 Comments

  1. Suzanne Titkemeyer

    We’re having a discussion about Michael Pearl’s wife Debi Pearl’s thoughts that having a hobby is an obsession and men are prone to obsessions. Glad to see others examining the Pearl’s bullshit. Nice catch on the plagiarism~ Read the magazine and didn’t catch it.

    Reply
    1. Suzanne Titkemeyer

      D’oh! The discussion is over at NLQ

      Reply
  2. Becky Wiren

    After reading what they recommend, I would recommend that they get whipped on the bare skin! Now, I used to spank my kids and I wish I hadn’t. I didn’t do it a lot and wish I hadn’t done it at all. Having said that, my sons don’t feel they were abused. But the way these so-called Christian authors recommend spanking/whipping IS ABUSE.

    Reply
  3. Appalachian Agnostic

    He won’t always be “bigger and tougher”. One day he will be weak and vulnerable. It would almost make me happy to find out that he is abused by a caretaker in his old age. Almost.

    Reply
  4. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Test

    Reply

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