Last year Market Research Services conducted research on behalf of UNICEF and The Ministry of Education. They surveyed 1,000 people from varying socio/economic strata of Jamaican society, and found that:
- 40% of those surveyed supported corporal punishment.
- 31.2% believed corporal punishment included “acts such as pinching, hits to the head, biting, ‘conking’, kicking and thumping a child.”
- 51.1% of those surveyed admitted to beating or using some form of physical punishment on a child.
- 55.6% disagreed that beating a child was an effective form of punishment
- 24% agreed that beating had no effect
- 64% said they would stop beating children if they knew of alternative methods
With statistics such as these, it’s not surprising that Jamaica has a very high crime rate. Today’s The Gleaner published the sentence on a 17 year-old-boy convicted of killing an 11-year-old boy: 20 years in prison. People are not satisfied with this sentence; they want the boy dead and are pushing for the death penalty. The dead boy’s dismembered body was found in trash bags.
Jamaican society needs to get rid of its belief in the outmoded “dominance theory” which dictates that physical power must be exerted over children and animals in order to get them to cooperate. There are, indeed, other far superior methods of disciplining and eliciting cooperation that leave no emotional–or other–scars. Psychologists and animal behaviorists have widely published the negative effects of using physical force (violence) to discipline children and animals. They have, for instance, shown that children who are beaten do poorly in school. Animal behaviorists have shown that exerting dominance over an animal (like kicking or beating the animal) causes aggression in the animal. Children who are treated violently treat others that way. Violence begets violence. It’s a vicious cycle.
If we want to produce a violence-free generation, we must stop being violent towards our children. Children need to be taught the value of life–all life–before Jamaica can even begin to address the gargantuan task of curbing crime. The correlation between animal abuse/child abuse and crime is well documented. The Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSPCA) conducts an outreach program intended for pre-high school children that addresses this issue. Their programs will become effective when parents and teachers start teaching their charges compassionately.
The task of promoting a non-violent way of life and respect for all living things lies with everyone, whether they are parents or not, whether they work with children or not. Even those entrusted with the care and welfare of animals–veterinarians, breeders, kennel/stable workers and animal trainers–have a major role to play.