A lot of parents are beating their children for their grades, a new study suggests.
The New York Times says when report cards are handed out on Friday, child abuse reports go up on Saturday.
The study, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, comes from a team headed by a researcher at the University of Florida who studied reports of child abuse in ages 5 to 11 during the 2015-16 academic year.
It confirms was a lot of pediatricians had been saying: there’s a relationship between report cards and violence against children.
“When you say, ‘How did you get it?,’ they say it’s because of their report card,” Dr. Alexander, an author of the study, tells the Times.
The doctors asked the parents why they hit their kids and, according to Alexander, they respond that it’s because they got a “B” or a “C” on their report card.
What’s particularly interesting is the relationship between violence and report cards mostly appears when the grades are sent home on Friday, the study said.
One possibility for this unique finding is that when report cards are released earlier in the week, caregivers are distracted by other activities such as work and caring for other children.
Thus, caregivers may not have the same opportunities to react negatively to a child’s report card when released on a Monday through Thursday.
Another possibility is that caregivers may avoid harsh punishment when children will have guaranteed exposure to mandated reporters (eg, teachers) the following day.
Given that this study, to our knowledge, is one of the first of its kind and that our findings do not indicate causality, ideas about the mechanisms linking report card release day and physical abuse are still largely speculative, and additional studies are needed to elucidate this possibility.
Subsequent studies wherein additional, potentially influential, factors are measured (eg, days missed from school for children with verified cases of physical abuse after report card release; quality of report cards; parental beliefs about corporal punishment) would be helpful.
In addition, randomization of the report card release day would create steps toward understanding pathways of causality.
A solution might be to issue report cards earlier in the week.
Or just stop hitting your kids.
“The answer is not spanking or hitting or whipping them,” Dr. Antoinette L. Laskey, the chief of the child protection and family health division of the University of Utah, said in a JAMA editorial “It’s a healthier approach. It’s talking with them. ‘Why are you having trouble in school? How can we do better?’”
In its editorial, JAMA pointed that “no studies have shown that the use of harsh physical discipline or corporal punishment had the desired effect of positive behavioral changes in children.”