Spanking and Vaccines

Earlier, I wrote a post called Short Term Pain Long Term Trauma. It said that when parents make their children suffer, the potential for long-term trauma should be the same regardless of whether the suffering was justified. Two examples of this might be spanking and vaccinations. I want to zoom in on these examples now.


Smart people tell me that spanking will have all kinds of negative long-term impacts on my child, including aggression, anti-social behavior, low self-esteem, and mental health problems. None of these people are even vaguely curious about whether vaccines cause aggression, anti-social behavior, low self-esteem, or mental health problems. In terms of what's actually happening to the child, vaccines and spanking aren't that different. The same rationale is employed for both (short term pain for long-term gain), and while I believe that the rationale for vaccines is justified and the rationale for spanking is not, the child certainly doesn't know the difference. The potential for all these detrimental long-term outcomes should be the same.

I'm skeptical that either actually causes these outcomes. I don't spank, not because I agree with all these supposed long-term costs to spanking, but because spanking seems cruel and I don't see any benefits. Many infer causation from correlation, but in doing so they bypass huge clusters of genetic and parenting style differences that loosely connect to conservatism. People who spank their children are clearly unlike people who don't. You might as well test whether spanking causes gun-ownership, belief in God, and conscientiousness. Based on the methodology of these studies (or what people infer from these studies), I'll bet it does!

Overall, the idea that parenting makes a long-term difference in children is vastly overrated. But if I did think smacking a child's bum had negative long-term consequences, I would be very interested in whether stabbing them with needles did the same. Of course, one wouldn't get the same correlations because vaccines aren't associated with a whole slew of conservative differences. But why wouldn't the causal story be the same?

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