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Smacking children: what the research says

Smacking children is illegal in Wales and Scotland.

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Yuganov Konstantin/Shutterstock

The question of whether it is ever acceptable to smack a child – hitting them with the flat inside of the hand with the aim of achieving compliance – is still highly controversial. In England, this controversy was recently reignited by the education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, who has said that “the discipline of children should be left up to parents”.

Smacking is currently illegal in 63 countries, including Wales and Scotland. In England and Northern Ireland, though, parents remain free to smack their children.

Typically, the main argument against banning parents from smacking their children is based on respecting parents’ rights. Zahawi said that the state should not “nanny” parents about how to raise their children.

In contrast, child protection groups and psychologists argue that the decision on whether to ban smacking should be based on what is best for the child rather than the parent. They point to psychological research as a source of information on whether smacking is good or bad for children.

Research on smacking

Research has found that physical punishment such as smacking is both ineffective and bad for children’s development. Research which analysed a range of studies on physical punishment such as smacking found that, in fact, this punishment made child behaviour worse.

Often, children still do not obey parents’ orders after being disciplined. And even when they do, a punishment such as smacking does not help the child understand why their actions were wrong. This is because sometimes the discipline comes with no explanation.

Also, the child may be too caught up in their own emotions to be able to understand why their actions were wrong. In the future, the child may follow their parents’ orders because of a fear of being physically punished again, not because they understand that it is the right thing to do.

In terms of how it affects child development, physical punishment has been linked with behavioural, social and mental health problems throughout childhood and adolescence. Children are more likely to have emotional and mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. They also have more chance of developing aggression and of engaging in risky behaviours. These effects can harm the relationship between the parent and the child and between the child and their peers.

A strong argument against the use of smacking is that children who are smacked are at higher risk of experiencing maltreatment and abuse by their parents. This is because over time it may take more and more force to have the same effect.

Stress response

Parental stress plays an important role in the use of physical punishment. When parents are stressed, they are less sensitive towards their children’s needs and are more likely to use harsher discipline, such as smacking.

A parent who occasionally smacks their child may end up smacking their child more often or using harsher forms of physical discipline when they become stressed. Smacking is an emotional response, often done when parents do not know how to control their children.

My colleagues and I at the University of Winchester conducted a study during the first COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. We asked 322 parents about their stress levels and their discipline practices.

Stressed mother trying to work with two children making noise
Parents reported higher stress levels during the pandemic. FamVeld/Shutterstock

Unsurprisingly, parents reported being much more stressed than before the pandemic. Parents who were very stressed reported disciplining their children more frequently and being harsher with them. Our findings are consistent with multiple reports claiming that the risk of violence against children increased worldwide during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Nevertheless, some psychologists have argued that we cannot categorically say that smacking is negative for children. In some cases the studies examining smacking do so in combination with other forms of corporal punishment, such as punching or hitting. Therefore, they argue that the real effects of smacking on children’s development may have been exaggerated.

Furthermore, some claim that most research on this topic cannot clearly establish that smacking is definitely the cause of negative consequences for children – just that there is a link between smacking and negative consequences for children.

However, one finding is clear amongst the controversy about smacking. It is never positive for children’s development.

Research evidence overwhelmingly shows that physical punishment such as smacking has negative outcomes. Parents can use a range of other forms of discipline to help children understand why their behaviour is wrong. These include time out (removing a child from an environment where they are doing something that they should not do), reasoning with the child, or taking away privileges, such as removing their video game console for the weekend.

Parents should use these discipline techniques instead of smacking.

Ana Aznar does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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Spread & Containment

A rapid, highly sensitive method to measure SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in…

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Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

Credit: Hiroki Ando, et al. Science of the Total Environment. August 8, 2022

Wastewater-based epidemiology (WBE) has been shown to be an excellent means of understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in communities. It is now used in multiple areas across the world to track the prevalence of the virus, serving as a proxy for determining the status of COVID-19. Of particular importance is that WBE can be used to estimate the prevalence of COVID-19, including asymptomatic cases. However, one of the major drawbacks of WBE for SARS-CoV-2 has been that the traditional method was not very sensitive, and low viral loads could not be reliably detected.

A team of scientists from Hokkaido University and Shionogi & Co, Ltd., have developed a simple, rapid, highly sensitive method for the detection of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater. The method, EPISENS-S, which does not require specialised equipment, was described in the journal Science of the Total Environment.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Japan has had the lowest number of cases per capita. Thus, the viral loads in sewage have also been lower, and much more difficult to evaluate using established WBE methods—due to their low sensitivity. Prior work by the research team showed that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was associated with solids in sewage, so they focused on developing a method to analyse the solid phase of wastewater.

The method they developed, EPISENS-S, involves centrifuging collected wastewater samples to separate all the solids in the samples. The solids were then treated with a commercially available kit to extract all the RNA; the RNA was then reverse transcribed and amplified to obtain a substantial amount of DNA copies. A separate set of samples was subjected to treatment with polyethylene glycol followed by RNA extraction and reverse transcription to synthesize DNA: the method that is currently widely implemented in Japan. The DNA obtained from each of these methods was subjected to quantitative PCR (qPCR).

The team found that the EPISENS-S method is approximately 100 times more sensitive than the polyethylene glycol method. They used EPISENS-S to conduct a long-term analysis of wastewater from two sewage treatment plants in Sapporo city, and found that there was a high correlation between changes in RNA concentrations in the collected samples and changes in the number of reported cases in the city. EPISENS-S can also detect and quantify the Pepper mild mottle virus (PMMoV), which is associated with fecal matter and is used as an internal control.

EPISENS-S provides a way to track COVID-19 cases that are asymptomatic, as well as those that have not been clinically confirmed. In addition, it has great potential to continue tracking the prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 as vaccination rates increase. Finally, EPISENS-S could also be adapted to track other viral diseases with low infection numbers and viral loads.


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Spread & Containment

Mish’s Daily: Step Back to the Monthly Chart on Transportation

Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business’s Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.What…

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Last Friday, I spoke on Women of Wall Street Twitter Spaces and Fox Business's Making Money with Charles Payne to talk about a key monthly moving average.

What makes this moving average so important right now is that three of the Economic Modern Family members are testing it. The three members, Granddad Russell 2000 (IWM), Grandma Retail (XRT) and Transportation (IYT), well deserve their status as what Stanley Druckenmiller calls the "inside" of the U.S. economy. In fact, the components of the modern family were put together before we heard Druckenmiller's viewpoint. We have observed how predictive they all are in helping us see in advance the next big market direction. Hence, these "inside" indicators -- right now -- are all sitting just above a 6–7-year business cycle low.

For the purposes of this daily and because we have featured this sector a lot lately, the chart of IYT is a perfect example of this moving average and what to watch for. Except for the brief blip in 2011 when the government shut down, and then again during the pandemic, IYT has sat above the dark blue line for 11 years. Currently, that line sits at the 195 area. The same is true with IWM and XRT, both marginally holding their monthly MAs.

So, watch IYT to either hold, and begin a rally possibly back closer to 220, or for IYT to fail 195, in which case we see the whole market selling off further.

To note, the other family members, such as Sister Semiconductors (SMH) and Prodigal Son Regional Banks (KRE) are still sitting well above the monthly MA. Big Brother Biotechnology (IBB), however, is now trading below it. And not in the family, but still notable, is the REIT sector (IYR), also sitting below it. SPY has the same MA, only that one sits at 310 (a long way off).

Incidentally, junk bonds broke down under this moving average in November 2021. The market has been slow to take junk bond's hint.

For more information on how to invest profitably in sectors like biotech, please reach out to Rob Quinn, our Chief Strategy Consultant, by clicking here.

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Mish in the Media

A business cycle is about 6-7 years - where are the indices now and what should you watch for? Mish discusses this question in this appearance on Fox's Making Money with Charles Payne.


ETF Summary

  • S&P 500 (SPY): Testing the previous low; 362 support, 370 resistance.
  • Russell 2000 (IWM): Broke the June low of 165.18; 162 support, 170 resistance.
  • Dow (DIA): Broke June low -289 support, 298 resistance.
  • Nasdaq (QQQ): Testing the June low;269 support, 280 resistance.
  • KRE (Regional Banks): Relative outperformer; 57 support, 61 resistance.
  • SMH (Semiconductors): 187 support, 194 resistance.
  • IYT (Transportation): 196 support, 200 resistance.
  • IBB (Biotechnology): 112 support, 118 resistance.
  • XRT (Retail): 55 support, 60 resistance.


Mish Schneider

MarketGauge.com

Director of Trading Research and Education

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We can turn to popular culture for lessons about how to live with COVID-19 as endemic

As COVID-19 transitions from a pandemic to an endemic, apocalyptic science-fiction and zombie movies contain examples of how to adjust to the new norm…

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An endemic means that COVID-19 is still around, but it no longer disrupts everyday life. (Shutterstock)

In 2021, conversations began on whether the COVID-19 pandemic will, or even can, end. As a literary and cultural theorist, I started looking for shifts in stories about pandemics and contagion. It turns out that several stories also question how and when a pandemic becomes endemic.


Read more: COVID will likely shift from pandemic to endemic — but what does that mean?


The 2020 film Peninsula, a sequel to the Korean zombie film, Train to Busan, ends with a group of survivors rescued and transported to a zombie-free Hong Kong. In it, Jooni (played by Re Lee) spent her formative years living through the zombie epidemic. When she is rescued, she responds to being informed that she’s “going to a better place” by admitting that “this place wasn’t bad either.”

Jooni’s response points toward the shift in contagion narratives that has emerged since the spread of COVID-19. This shift marks a rejection of the push-for-survival narratives in favour of something more indicative of an endemic.

Found within

Contagion follows a general cycle: outbreak, epidemic, pandemic and endemic. The determinants of each stage rely upon the rate of spread within a specified geographic region.

Etymologically, the word “endemic” has its origins with the Greek words én and dēmos, meaning “in the people.” Thus, it refers to something that is regularly found within a population.

Infectious disease physician Stephen Parodi asserts that an endemic just means that a disease, while still prevalent within a population, no longer disrupts our daily lives.

Similarly, genomics and viral evolution researcher Aris Katzourakis argues that endemics occur when infection rates are static — neither rising nor falling. Because this stasis occurs differently with each situation, there is no set threshold at which a pandemic becomes endemic.

Not all diseases reach endemic status. And, if endemic status is reached, it does not mean the virus is gone, but rather that things have become “normal.”

Survival narratives

We’re most likely familiar with contagion narratives. After all, Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 film Contagion, was the most watched film on Canadian Netflix in March 2020. Conveniently, this was when most Canadian provinces went into lockdown during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A clip from the film Contagion showing the disease spreading throughout the world.

In survival-based contagion narratives, characters often discuss methods for survival and generally refer to themselves as survivors. Contagion chronicles the transmission of a deadly virus that is brought from Hong Kong to the United States. In response, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control is tasked with tracing its origins and finding a cure. The film follows Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon), who is immune, as he tries to keep his daughter safe in a crumbling Minneapolis.

Ultimately, a vaccine is successfully synthesized, but only after millions have succumbed to the virus.

Like many science fiction and horror films that envision some sort of apocalyptic end, Contagion focuses on the basic requirements for survival: shelter, food, water and medicine.

However, it also deals with the breakdown of government systems and the violence that accompanies it.

A “new” normal

In contrast, contagion narratives that have turned endemic take place many years after the initial outbreak. In these stories, the infected population is regularly present, but the remaining uninfected population isn’t regularly infected.

A spin-off to the zombie series The Walking Dead takes place a decade after the initial outbreak. In the two seasons of The Walking Dead: World Beyond (2020-2021) four young protagonists — Hope (Alexa Mansour), Iris (Aliyah Royale), Silas (Hal Cumpston) and Elton (Nicolas Cantu) — represent the first generation to come of age within the zombie-infested world.

The four youth spent their formative years in an infected world — similar to Jooni in Peninsula. For these characters, zombies are part of their daily lives, and their constant presence is normalized.

The trailer for the second season of AMC’s The Walking Dead: World Beyond.

The setting in World Beyond has electricity, helicopters and modern medicine. Characters in endemic narratives have regular access to shelter, food, water and medicine, so they don’t need to resort to violence over limited resources. And notably, they also don’t often refer to themselves as survivors.

Endemic narratives acknowledge that existing within an infected space alongside a virus is not necessarily a bad thing, and that not all inhabitants within infected spaces desire to leave. It is rare in endemic narratives for a character to become infected.

Instead of going out on zombie-killing expeditions in the manner that occurs frequently in the other Walking Dead stories, the characters in World Beyond generally leave the zombies alone. They mark the zombies with different colours of spray-paint to chronicle what they call “migration patterns.”

The zombies have therefore just become another species for the characters to live alongside — something more endemic.

The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead (2015-), Z Nation (2014-18), and many other survival-based stories seem to return to the past. In contrast, endemic narratives maintain a present and sometimes even future-looking approach.

Learning from stories

According to film producer and media professor Mick Broderick, survival stories maintain a status quo. They seek a “nostalgically yearned-for less-complex existence.” It provides solace to imagine an earlier, simpler time when living through a pandemic.

However, the shift from survival to endemic in contagion narratives provides us with many important possibilities. The one I think is quite relevant right now is that it presents us with a way of living with contagion. After all, watching these characters survive a pandemic helps us imagine that we can too.

Krista Collier-Jarvis does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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