Science Reveals That Hitting Just 50 Percent of a Set of Twins Is Not, In Fact, Good Parenting

Science Reveals That Hitting Just 50 Percent of a Set of Twins Is Not, In Fact, Good Parenting
Illustration:Wellcome Collection (Fair Use)

A study out of Michigan State University that followed twins from birth has revealed that, in households where one twin received corporal punishment while the other did not, the twin who was hit fared worse in terms of socialization than the one who was not—something that should be fairly obvious, but I guess needed to be “proven.”

This article in the Austin American Stateman raises many more questions about the ethics and point of the two-part study, which involved 2,540 children, than it answers:

“Both the parents and the kids were asked questions about parenting experiences to confirm that it wasn’t just the child who was saying their parent was using physical punishment. The way the question is asked rules out the parents who lose control one time, she says. Instead it’s asking about frequency and considering parents who use physical punishment as their regular practice.”

These sets of twins, both fraternal and identical, range in age between 6-15 and are part of a whole host of studies centered on the role of genetics in behavior. The twins, who were not only hit by the people who are supposed to protect them but also hit with the knowledge that the person with whom they once shared a womb was somehow above this treatment, were, again quite obviously, more prone to aggression. I am only a doctor who studies the literary origin stories of fictional villains but I would say that is likely because they are furious about the unfairness of their circumstances in ways that they cannot articulate because they are six years old.

The author of this study, however, Liz Gershoff, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin in the department of human development and family sciences, contends these behavior issues stem solely from the fact that spanking is bad which, yes, sure. Hitting is wrong and hitting children or puppies is more wrong still, but the fact that the spanking doctor is just accepting that one kid was somehow asking for it while the other one was not seems at least highly odd if not fucking alarming to a layperson:

“‘Parents do treat them as individuals and respond to their behavior differently,’ Gershoff says. The study didn’t conclude why one twin received spankings while the other did not or what the child did to illicit the harsher punishment.”

Look, it’s probably not my place to tell anyone how to do their science, but allow me to do just that. Instead of focusing on whether or not spanking works as a behavior modification aid when decades of evidence have proven it does not, it might be time to try and identify the reason that around half of all American parents still hit their children, in an attempt to reach and educate these people before the trajectory of their kids’ entire lives is shaped by ineffective at best and harmful at worst physical aggression.

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