Link between punishment and future crime

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Relationship between crime and physical punishment of children always interested me. I found this article written by someone who researched this by studying inmates and their childhood history. Interesting…

“During my long career evaluating juvenile delinquents (now numbering in the thousands, and still climbing as a Court Based Assessment Psychologist), I have yet to see the first violent male juvenile delinquent who wasn’t raised on a belt, board, extension cord, fist or the equivalent. I am still amazed at the consistency of the “belt” and its equivalents in producing angry and violent behavior.

What we know about punishment from animal research, and human research is this: It produces short term avoidance which quickly wears off when the fear adapts but produces long term anger; it is uncomfortable both to give, and to receive; it occurs while the parent is angry and incapable of thinking of other options; it produces an avoidance response in the punished person (and animals) toward the punisher (the parent, or the school if the principal is wielding the paddle); it is not informative since it only identifies what not to do, not what should be done as positive reinforcement does.


Physical punishment discourages learning, and encourages retaliation toward the parent and society in general because the abused person often rejects the societal values of the punishing parent; it produces behavioral variability since it does not identify the “desired” behaviors so it rarely produces the behavior the punisher is looking for. Finally, it produces a delayed-action affect, and this lag is critical in masking the relationship between the punishment and later aggression. Since the fear caused by the punishment tends to inhibit immediate aggressive behavior, the punishment experience is now in the distant past by the time the fear has subsided and anger can now be released. Because of this time lag, the anger engendered by the punishment is not readily perceived to be related to the long-gone punishment situation. That is, learning a connection between one event and the next requires close proximity between the two. Therefore, neither the user of corporal punishment, nor the recipient of corporal punishment realize that the punishment is the sleeper fuel that is slowly building up aggression in the recipient of the abuse.

Women who are beaten tend to select mates who beat them–apparently their idea of what is “manly” and “sexy” comes from their father, whether they liked him or not; Swedes rarely hit their kids, their jails are remarkably humane, and their crime rate very low.”

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