change the world badge

change the world badge


Child Psychology Blogs

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?

Concerned About Unconventional Mental Health Interventions?
Alternative Psychotherapies: Evaluating Unconventional Mental Health Treatments

Sunday, January 8, 2012

More Mulling on Physical Punishment

Boy, I never thought I’d be arguing against people who argue against physical punishment for children. However, I think and have always thought that blanket prohibitions or admonitions either require some evidence or, as an alternative, need to be stated on moral grounds. If anyone wants to say they simply think it’s wrong to use physical punishment, I can’t argue with their belief. But when a belief is disguised as a statement of evidence-- I can’t go along with that without a response.

There are three issues about physical punishment that I want to noodle about for a bit. One is the fact that if punishment is to be used, mild physical punishment has certain advantages. Another is an alternative way of thinking about the idea that parents who spank are acting as inappropriate role models and teach their children to use violence. The last involves the belief that it’s all right for parents to use physical punishment, but not for schools or day care centers to do so.

1. When I refer to mild physical punishment, I’m referring to one or two smacks with an open hand on the clothed buttocks or backs of the legs of a preschool child. If punishment is needed to bring about behavior change favorable to the health and safety of all concerned, mild physical punishment has some real advantages. It’s well established that punishment works when it is given concurrently with an unwanted behavior; it actually works best when it occurs just as the child prepares for the behavior; the longer after the behavior the punishment comes, the less effective it is. Punishment is quite ineffective when it’s delayed “until Daddy gets home”, or when it involves deprivation of some future treat like dessert tonight or a birthday party on Saturday. Mild physical punishment can be performed more or less on the instant. Note, though, that if it isn’t done right away, you might as well not do it at all, as it will not later be connected with the unwanted behavior, but instead will be associated with whatever has gone on just before. (Any thoughts about our correctional system, by the way?)

2. Now, this role model thing: everybody and their brother states with certainty that a parent who uses physical punishment is acting as a role model to encourage violent behavior. But is that actually true? Not everything parents do serves as a role model for their child’s general behavior. For example, single mothers regularly teach their toddler and preschool sons to pee standing up, even though the little boys, in their frequent invasions of the bathroom, always see Mom sitting down on the toilet. Mothers can wear high heels; little children don’t except for playing “dress-up”. Fathers and mothers too are heard to say selected words which children aren’t supposed to say.

In addition, much of our instruction and modeling of behavior for children is a matter of teaching time, manner, and place. We don’t, in fact, usually teach children that violence is never acceptable. We accept and even approve of it in sports, in defense of a person under attack, in self-defense, and so on. A football player who is highly aggressive on the field is admired, but if he beats up his girlfriend later there will be some people (not enough, though) who will disapprove deeply. Children are socialized by their experiences with their parents into an understanding of the times, manners, and places in which violent behavior is permitted (or even required). Learning that it is acceptable for an adult to spank a child for repeated dangerous behavior does not involve the same time, manner, or place rules as learning that it is acceptable to mug old ladies or participate in gang warfare. To think so is to over-generalize--- what Jerome Kagan has called the “seductive idea” of abstractionism.

3. Our society’s great confusion about physical punishment is exemplified in the idea that parents may spank or smack, but day care centers and preschools may not. (I omit discussion of physical punishment in elementary and high schools, which when permitted has often gone far beyond the “mild” level, and which should not be necessary at those ages for children who are less impulsive and better self-regulated than younger children.)

We seem to have two conflicting ideas about spanking. One is that it’s a bad thing to do, and that’s why teachers aren’t allowed to do it. The other is that parents have a right to do things to their children as they choose, and if they don’t spank their children the children will run wild (and be annoying to the rest of us, I suppose is the real concern). Logically, of course, if it’s a bad thing, nobody should be doing it, although we can probably stop teachers a lot more easily than we can parents; if it’s an acceptable thing for parents, why shouldn’t teachers do it too?

I think it’s possible that this conflict is based on the assumption that because parents love their children and know them well, they will not let physical punishment get out of hand, and they will comfort a child who is upset--- but that teachers do not love the child and are likely to turn the Kiddie Academy into Dotheboys Hall if given any opportunity. In reality, the opposite might well be true, as teachers are less likely to experience the fatigue and frustration of daily and nightly child care, or conflict with a co-parent who focuses on relationship problems in connection with childrearing.

A [temporary] final thought on these matters: as for myself, as long as parents are hot-saucing children, keeping them in cages, limiting their food, making them sleep outdoor without blankets in winter, or whipping them with plumbing supply line, I am not going to worry too much about a limited and possibly appropriate use of mild physical punishment. My energies are going to be directed toward stopping treatment that is, frankly, torture. Admirers of Alice Miller’s position can either join me or continue to enjoy their ideological purity. I hope it will be the former, because there is a lot of thinking and a lot of work to be done.


  1. I think Miller's view regarding childhood trauma and war was about outright abuse, and it was very specific. The stuff I read was about Hitler, specifically.
    I won't address that association with punishment and crime, I don't think that was me, my concern is more that punishing a child teaches him to punish his kids.
    I love the point, 'is it good or bad, good for parents, bad for teachers' - funny and true.
    Thanks again.

  2. But if it's effective and harmless to punish kids in certain limited ways at certain ages, why is it not okay for the kid to learn that?
    Your argument only holds if it is harmful, or ineffective, or related to other undesirable violent behavior.

  3. "[Punishment] actually works best when it occurs just as the child prepares for the behavior"

    Wouldn't this be a troublesome approach, as the disciplining adults would be punishing for thought crimes?

    "A [temporary] final thought on these matters: as for myself, as long as parents are hot-saucing children, keeping them in cages, limiting their food, making them sleep outdoor without blankets in winter, or whipping them with plumbing supply line, I am not going to worry too much about a limited and possibly appropriate use of mild physical punishment."

    You're setting up a false dichotomy here. Either the child is abused in a horrendous manner or the child suffered only mildly (appropriately or inappropriately). One may either care about the horrendously abused children (and join you) or care only about the mildly reprimanded children.

    This is the same line of reasoning that many employ against minority group's rights. To relate it to women's rights- Some women are battered and raped, why should it matter that others are simply groped or sexualized?

  4. Thought crimes? I would only physically punish actions that are relevant to someone's safety. If the child persistently and dangerously runs into the street, and he can best be prevented from this by punishment when he shows himself to be planning to do it, then punishment at that point is desirable. We're talking about keeping everyone safe and reasonably comfortable, not about maintaining a legal system. Keep in mind, too, that young children are impulsive, and when they think about a problem behavior, they usually do it, unlike adults, who may rob a bank in fantasy but never make a move to do it in reality.

    As for your other analogy,here's the difference: as far as I know, there are no good outcomes of the experience for the victims of either violent rape or groping. It's quite possible,however, that children can benefit from mild physical punishment that helps keep them safe and also guides them to behave socially in ways that others will enjoy and approve of, thus helping them build positive relationships, play with other children, and be liked by their teachers... all factors that are beneficial for development in both the short and the long term. While there is plenty of evidence that abuse and neglect have bad effects on development, I don't think there is such evidence about mild physical punishment in the preschool years. If anyone has seen any, I'd appreciate having the references.

    1. You still haven't addressed the fallacy.

      1) People agree with you and will safely ignore mild punishments (some of which are inappropriately ministered) to fight the fight against horrendous child abuse
      2) People who follow total non-violence can continue following their ideologies and NOT CARE about child abuse- support by remaining silent.

      Those are not the only two options.

      As to my analogy, reading your response, I'm not sure I made my point as clear as I had hoped to have made it.

      To word it similar to how you did,
      A [temporary] final thought on these matters: as for myself, as long as men are raping women, denying them basic rights, abusing them, throwing acid on them, or giving them death threats, I am not going to worry too much about a limited and possibly appropriate use of mild groping or ogling. My energies are going to be directed toward stopping treatment that is, frankly, torture. Admirers of the Feminist position can either join me or continue to enjoy their ideological purity. I hope it will be the former, because there is a lot of thinking and a lot of work to be done.

  5. I think I hear your argument against an ideological approach as 'practical over theoretical,' is that right?
    And would that mean, if we were speaking purely theoretically, that you might agree, in principal, that if a lot of pain(abuse) is damaging, that a little pain(punishment) cannot be beneficial? I know doctor's lives are all about difficult choices, practical compromises. Is this part of your approach? That the benefits of socialization outweigh the confusion etc., of the co-existence of good and bad violence?

  6. By ideological, I mean an approach that declares that a certain principle is correct no matter what the outcome of its application may be. By pragmatic,I mean an approach chosen on the grounds of known outcomes of its application.

    Reasoning by analogy, I would have to reject your statement that if a lot of pain is bad, a little cannot be good. This is possible, but look at comparable situations:

    A lot of arsenic will kill you, but a tiny bit is great for your hair and complexion.

    A lot of smallpox virus is likely to be very damaging, but a tiny bit can serve to immunize you.

    A lot of pain is debilitating and makes normal functioning impossible, but a little pain warns us of danger and enables us to avoid it-- people who have no sense of pain in parts of the body (e.g., Hansen's disease patients) lose body parts after many injuries and become severely deformed.

    An excessive amount of water consumed can cause death through hyponatremia, but a smaller amount is needed for physical functioning.

    These analogies suggest that it's plausible that different amounts of pain,punishment, whatever it is, could have effects that are different in quality as well as quantity. However, I'm not actually taking a homeopathic view-- in fact, I was thinking in terms of balancing benefits and costs, as you say..

  7. All good examples. I thought of the 'pain' one too. I can't however accept that we can immunize for violence. I know you weren't saying that, I'm just making it really clear. In fact, I think it's the opposite, that punishment is an immunization against the opposition of violence, right? I'll read your new one now.

  8. I don't know--- I think maybe I can be contrary about that too. Does experience of mild violence model the possibility of using physical force without having it get out of hand? Does that experience let the child see force as normal and not unduly frightening, so he or she can think about it rationally rather than being driven by impulse? Does the experience, in other words, help develop the instrumental use of violence, rather than limiting the person to emotional outbursts when things get too rough?

    Really,I do not know-- but these are plausible outcomes, just as much as your suggestion.

    1. OK, I've let that settle for a while, and no, I still think punishing a child introduces them to violence more than it introduces them to "violence that doesn't get out of hand." And, more to my point, it introduces them to violence by an adult against a small child.

  9. That seems logical, I'm thinking about it . . .

  10. Of course, it's quite possible that you're right about that kind of problem. But let me point out that there are many other strong arguments against the habitual use of physical punishment with children. One is the obvious one, that someone may get hurt, and of course there are many potential negative consequences like foster care and the break-up of the family that might follow that. Another is the fact that those parents who depend on physical punishment will eventually be up against offspring who are larger and stronger than the parents and will win the battle-- or who will run away, and be deprived of the guidance they still need in adolescence.

    In addition, parents who habitually use physical punishment may forget the need for explanations of rules or discussion of family interactions, and may feel that it's all over when the smack has been given. Using other guidance techniques forces parents to talk to and listen to children in ways that have both cognitive and emotional advantages for development.

    So, in sum, I stand by my statement that it's best to keep physical punishment to the minimum and to try other methods first, coming back to physical punishment only when serious efforts of other kinds have failed, and the matter is a pressing one. And at the same time, I stand by the statement that there is no evidence for ill effects of mild physical punishment. In fact, in the African American community, there is some evidence that families that use some physical punishment in an atmosphere of emotional warmth do very well in fostering good development.

    But what I'd like to get back to, and what has received so little attention from anyone, is the use of physical force with young children outside the context of punishment or guidance. I make no claims about its effects, but don't see the point of discussing physical punishment and ignoring physical force, which seems to me to be a point on the spectrum beyond even mild physical punishment. For example, suppose you have an 18-month-old with a dirty diaper that's leaking down his leg onto the carpet. You say "come on, you need clean pants" and the toddler stamps his foot and shouts "NO". Most parents will scoop that child up and carry him kicking and screaming to get cleaned up. This,one would think, could be considered even more traumatic than a smack on the behind-- but because it does not occur in the punishment context, few people think of it that way. So, is it traumatic? Do children learn from these experiences that might makes right? Should parents be willing to have baby poop trodden into all the furniture in order to have a child experience only gentle care? This really is not a reductio ad absurdum, but an important question about the impact of children's everyday experiences.

    Same thing about breastfeeding, by the way. The child bites, and you teach her not to by putting your finger between her jaws when she looks like she's about to nip. If you don't teach this, and the nipple is damaged and becomes infected, the child will have to be weaned, so even if you aren't concerned with the mother's pain, you need to choose the lesser of two evils. However, it's a matter of using physical force to change behavior-- what does the child learn from that?

    Like everything interesting, it's complicated.

    By the way, Jeff, I really appreciate your rational approach to these issues, and the fact that you don't think personal remarks are a good argument!

  11. Excellent point. Force and/or violence without even the rationalization of corrective benefit, of course, that's bad too. Complicated, yes! On the one hand, maybe worse, for the lack of educational value, but on the other, not so bad. It's more honest. From my viewpoint - where punishment generally, is very illogical, ass-backwards really - then the leaky diaper scenario is more honest. "Corrective" force always has the lesson/lie that goes with it: this is good for you. That is the one that causes the never-ending cycle of punishment/violence. That is where we learn that punishment is somehow different from abuse, and somehow causes good in people and the world whereas unauthorized abuse causes only bad stuff.
    You know, no-one's going to hear my message, and I'd settle for this: that we all keep spanking and/or beating our kids, with only this change, that we shut up about it. Give me the whooping, and keep your "lessons." With only the trauma, but without the "education," things would have a chance to improve in the next generations.
    Dramatic again. I really need to find another outlet for that.

  12. Why is it bad? How would it be better to manage these issues?

    As for "it's good for you", in many cases it is less difficult and painful to learn certain rules early. But in addition,how about "it's good for me"-- the parent, teacher, or any other person. Children need to be socialized and to realize that we get some benefits and lose some privileges by joining in the social contract. Otherwise, yes, their lives will be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and even short, and the lives of the rest of us will tend in those directions too.

    I wonder whether part of this discussion is really about the nature of human beings-- good, neutral, or bad-- and whether evil is or is not an expectable part of the human composition.

  13. Well, yes, certainly the unquestioned belief in punishment as a tool for socialization is deeply connected to Original Sin. If people are "bad" then, they all need correction. If, on the other hand, people are "good" - and an appreciable amount of psychology is true - then our corrections are only making them bad. So I'm swimming upstream, but I'm an optimist.

  14. What part of "psychology" are you referring to? Are you sure you don't mean psychoanalysis? There's nothing in modern psychology that would claim a single cause for "bad" or "good" developmental outcomes. You should read some of the work of Grace Kochanska as an example of how behavior development is considered both interactionally and transactionally.

    But once again, I want to ask you: if in fact occasional mild punishment is not in itself bad, and if indeed it encourages the smackee to grow up to smack his or her children,but not to display any other form of "violence",
    why is it a problem? In what way is that kind of correction making anybody "bad"?

  15. Yeah, I googled her and got nothing. Is there a book name or something you can give me?

  16. I'm going to give that question some time, about "why is it a problem" etc. Back soon.

  17. No books from Kochanska, but if you can get the publication "Child Development" through your library, she has published dozens of articles there.

    Take your time on why it's a problem-- I'd better do some other things myself.

  18. I forgot, Kochanska's name is Grazyla, not Grace-- good example of remembering the more frequent event, not the correct one!

  19. I’m referring to the part of psychology that says that our adult personalities are shaped by our experiences and educations and that traumas in our experience can cause troubles (neuroses, complexes), many of which can be debilitating and require therapy, etc., and that the reason we are not all perfectly functioning examples of top human potential is due to these troubles and their impact on our personalities, either during our development or in adult life. The idea that our individuality is to a large degree brought about by the uniqueness of or damage.
    Frankly, I can’t remember where I got this, I’ve read a lot of books. I thought it was the classical idea of psychology, or maybe psychiatry, probably Freud, Jung. Maybe some anthology book, like “Meeting the Shadow,” probably not R.D. Laing . . . although Laing does give you the idea that EVERYONE’s crazy, which suits me, as I think punishment is a neurosis we all share. So, yes, psychoanalysis, I guess.

    “ . . . : if in fact occasional mild punishment is not in itself bad . . . “
    I feel I’m losing track of my idea a little here. “Anti-spanking” is a very limited description of my stance, I’m not concerned about particular types of punishment. I’m “anti-punishment” in all its forms. It’s the culture of punishment that I find crazy, and spanking is just the first place that crazy idea gets taught, learned, and propagated, of course when we’re to young to reason with, and therefore too young to treat the concept critically.
    “…and if indeed it encourages the smackee to grow up to smack his or her children,but not to display any other form of "violence", why is it a problem?”
    Maybe many of the good people don’t escalate the cycle of violence in their own personal lives, but many do. Many become soldiers, many work in the criminal justice system where violence is often very much part of their jobs, and they deal out punishments to criminals, punishments that meet all the criteria for crimes themselves. Also, many that don’t have violence as their trade still condone soldiering and other forms of extreme violence that is conducted by people legally.
    Even with the tiniest forms of punishment, the concept of punishment is taught and learned, and so even capital punishment appears “good,” and many of the good, God fearing people cheer at hangings, cheer for military campaigns.
    Now I’m TRYING to answer a foundational question here, but I’m failing. Why is a little bit of violence bad? Why is violence bad? That’s not easy to answer, maybe it’s not, maybe it’s no big deal, humans get hurt, humans die. As a non-religious person, the only answer I have is, it hurts. I don’t want it to happen to me. As a society, though, I thought we all thought it was bad, so we punish for it, try to deter it. No?

    1. Now we're getting down to some of the brass tacks. You see, what you're talking about, R.D. Laing, and all that, is not what I'd call "psychology". To me, psychology is the study of behavior, thinking, and emotion, and it's based on empirical work, although obviously theory is needed to try to make sense of separate observable facts.

      R.D. Laing was a psychoanalyst by training,which means that he used clinical material to try to work backward to what may have happened in someone's life rather than observation of groups of people to see what actually did happen. He was also the kind of thinker that Freud said practiced "wild psychoanalysis", like Groddeck and Ferenczi and Wilhelm Reich. These were the people who invented the whole emphasis on repressed early experiences that's influencing your thinking, the "recovered memory" movement, the people who argue about the "Primal Wound" on this blog, etc. In addition, to put it bluntly, R.D. Laing was a nut case and would only have made a name as he did during a period where everyone was looking at their fingers and asking each other who was to say what was crazy. I wonder what you think about his claim that the mother's first kiss is the first assault of the family on the baby!

      Okay-- now-- if not everybody "escalates the cycle of violence"-- why does anybody? Are you arguing that if nobody was ever punished, nobody would think of using violence? If so, why did the kid smack the mother and influence her to smack him back, to begin with? I think you're forgetting the instrumental value of violence in assuring safety; because that exists, societies do not in fact try to get rid of it completely, but regulate time , manner, and place.

      To comment a little further on the impact of bad experiences on personality: no, that's not really where modern psychology sees individual differences as coming from. They begin with biologically-determined constitutional differences such as mood and tendency to approach or avoid novel experiences; they continue through positive early social interactions and the establishment of attachment; they're influenced strongly by cultural factors that provide models both inside and outside the family; they're affected by factors like gender that evoke different kinds of treatment from others as well as being powerful in themselves; and yes, they are affected by unpleasant experiences as well as a long list of other things. Although there are plenty of people studying real developmental events with a psychoanalytic framework (like Peter Fonagy) classical psychoanalytic thought began quite a while before the events of early development were anything like as well understood as they are now.

      Have you ever done an actual developmental psychology course? If not, you might want to read the first few chapters of a standard text, just to get oriented to what's going on in the field right now. Tain't R.D Laing!

  20. Oh gosh-- you are perfectly right. How many times have I made this mistake, I wonder!

  21. Ha! So guys like Laing started the “Well, something must have happened to ME” movement, huh? I didn’t know that. I worried about his stability when I heard he never sent his kid to school.

    “I wonder what you think about his claim that the mother's first kiss is the first assault of the family on the baby!”

    You know, I’ve never heard that one, but it doesn’t sound as crazy to me as it does to you. I mean, I get it, what are we not supposed to touch our babies? But it puts me in mind of another anecdote from my life. My first daughter was three when my second was born. I already had an impression that my in-laws were crazy and intrusive, and when I took my first break from the hospital and brought my older daughter home for a meal, my mother- and brother-in-law were both there and they immediately were all over my first kid saying, “Ooh, you’re a big sister now! You gonna look after your new sister, you gotta teach her, babysit her . . . “ and all this normal dutiful stuff. They seemed very aggressive to me, right in my daughter’s face with “you must do this,” and “you must feel that,” all this stuff, and I was holding her, trying to give her the impression she was still my little girl, and I’m turning away from M-in-law to get her out of our faces and running into B-in-law and turning back . . . I felt we were prey and the jackals were circling us . . .
    I guess what I’m trying to say is, in the case of my M-in-law, kisses do seem to be some kind of assault. Heh heh heh.
    Maybe me and R.D. got the same kind of in-laws.

    “Okay-- now-- if not everybody "escalates the cycle of violence"-- why does anybody?”

    If not everybody gets lung cancer from cigarettes, why does anybody? I know there are answers to that question, genes, other environmental factors, length of exposure, etc., but my point is, as a society, don’t we just say you shouldn’t smoke?
    “Are you arguing that if nobody was ever punished, nobody would think of using violence?”
    Well, I do tend to grandiosity and globalizing, but “nobody” is going too far, even for me. That is my thought on it, though. I think there could be a lot less violence.

    “If so, why did the kid smack the mother and influence her to smack him back, to begin with?”

    First, I think if I said that to some smart, psychology pro like yourself, I’d be in trouble. “ . . . why did the kid . . . influence her to smack him back . . . “ My sisters would’ve had my ‘nads for that! Kidding, sort of.
    If the kid is old enough to understand violence when that happens, that’s one thing, but this scenario is usually about a baby or a toddler, isn’t it? Young kids are trying everything, right, learning? That is a learning opportunity, and if the mother smacks him back, that’s one of two things: a harsh, natural lesson in picking fights with people 10 times your size, or a missed chance to teach non-violence. Interesting idea. Maybe in the case of kids hitting grown-ups, hitting isn’t necessarily punishment, but simply a fight. Most of punishment involves an artificial consequence. If a kid steals and gets hit, that’s a punishment. If a kid curses and get grounded, that’s a punishment. Perhaps a hit for a hit isn’t necessarily a punishment! Know what I mean? If it is, though, if it was intended to be? Well that is the third possibility, and the one that I find to be insane, teaching someone not to hit, by demonstrating hitting, and then explaining how it was a good thing!

    1. I'm not suggesting that the first response to the baby sticking his fingers up your nose should be a smack upside the head, or even that an angry toddler should be spanked. I'm assuming the full complement of parent strategies-- evasion, distraction, talking it over, teaching how to use words to express feelings, etc. etc. But some two-year-olds will still hit, and this is a behavior that needs to be stopped. You can't wait until they're 20 in the hopes that they will have figured out why you don't punch Mom, as you have carefully modeled peaceful behavior! As for being told it's a good thing--- the message is simple: hit me, and I will hit you.Don't hit me, and I won't hit you.

      The Catholics have been trying for a long time to figure out whether it's okay to do evil so that good will result. This sees to me to be a similar issue.

    2. I don't know about that. Are there really studies that show that kids who weren't hit back grow up to be the violent ones? Wouldn't it be the over-hit ones who grow up to be violent?

    3. The thing is, it probably depends in part on the person's ethnicity. In a study of Head Start kids (Stacks, Oshio, Gerard, & Roe,2009), only the Caucasian kids showed increased aggressiveness when they had mothers who punished physically, as compared to other Caucasian kids who didn't. The Asian and African kids didn't show those differences.

      But, in addition, what's the direction of causation? Don't forget that the mothers may become more punitive if the children are more aggressive.

      As for what they grew up to be-- this is a question whose methodology has not yet been handled. What information do we use to figure out whether they were hit? Their memories? Their mothers' memories? There are dozens of reasons why those reports might be distorted.
      Also, what form of adult violence are we looking at? Serial killers,domestic violence, bad tempers-- or instrumental violence like joining the military or becoming professional boxers?

      One more point: naturally I follow your suggestion that spanking can model aggressive behavior. But it can do other things too. Punishment is well known to "break up" or interrupt a behavior at least temporarily and to allow new behaviors to be introduced.If a parent can use that "break" to talk, guide, explain, etc., that can be beneficial; it may not be too easy to introduce those strategies if the child is just going on and on with the worrisome behavior. My support for punishment in some situations is not an argument for simply lambasting the child and then walking away, you know. To be fully understood (not that I claim to), punishment would have to be seen in the context of history and environment. If it's effective and appropriate at all, it's bound to be more effective in some contexts than in others. But the difficulties of observing these behaviors in the natural environment have kept us from finding out much about them-- labor-intensive stuff, and that kind of observation is no longer the research flavor of the month.

  22. “ I think you're forgetting the instrumental value of violence in assuring safety; because that exists, societies do not in fact try to get rid of it completely, but regulate time , manner, and place.”
    That’s a good one. You’re right, I’ve never really got to the bottom of “is violence bad?” I’ll give your point the old college try, though! How about this: societies don’t try to stop violence, but regulate it at a certain level, then how is that level determined? I might suggest that it is determined by just this, that we are all taught to accept and use a certain amount of violence IN THE FORM OF PUNISHMENT. You have to admit, not everyone in our society learns martial art, or military battle strategy, but we all learn punishment. So it is probably exactly that function, the propagation of violence, legitimately, as punishment, that sets the acceptable level of violence in a society.
    I also think people raised without it may be smarter, that through punishment we teach our kids illogic and lies, so that I think these smarter, less violent people would still be capable of necessary violence, like civil defence, self defence. I think the quality of our violence would not suffer from lack of the unconscious need to be violent, just the quantity.

    Finally, yes, I see, if this is going to be my hobby, I’d better crack a book from sometime in the last 40 years or so. Recommendations ?

    1. A book that might be very interesting to crack is "Three Seductive Ideas", by Jerome Kagan. I'd love to have it memorized-- I'm always going back to look something up. You would also like Stanley Greenspan's "Life's First Feelings" (or maybe it's just "First Feelings"), or some of his other books, because he discusses at length the idea you suggest about the connection between emotional development and intelligence.