Is cancer a good enough reason not to hit your child?

Last month, when I wrote about corporal punishment, there were arguments for the rod and against it. While the debate goes on, I recently read this very disturbing news.

News clip with heading "Girl, blinded after being hit by teacher, dies of cancer"

This is the gist: In 2010, when Piya was seven years old, her teacher hit her and damaged the little girl’s eye. The injury required eight surgeries. Two months ago, her doctors diagnosed cancer and she died on November 16, 2012.

The doctors reportedly told her uncle that “Piya’s condition worsened due to severe head injuries and clots in her brain.”

News clip with heading "File murder case against teacher"

Do you find this difficult to believe? Is this just sensational reporting? Perhaps, I would have agreed with you,  if I had not come across this report some days before I read about Piya.

Telegraph story "Smacking children may increase risk of them developing cancer"

This is not from the lay press, but a research finding from Journal of Behavioral Medicine, reported by The Telegraph.

“Those who had cancer were 70 per cent more likely to have been beaten as a child compared to the healthy group.

Those with cardiac disease were 30 per cent more likely and those with asthma 60 per cent more likely.”

Even as we all feel sorry for Piya (how dare she not complete her homework!), there is that little voice asking the question. Was the beating the direct reason for her cancer? Or, to put it more bluntly, did her teacher really kill her?

Cover of Journal of Behavioral Medicine

This is what the researchers conclude: “Our results lend support to those who suggest that physical punishment should not be used. Our interpretation, however, is that it is not physical punishment per se but the threat produced by the use of physical punishment that leads to negative outcomes.”

This is my question to you.

As a parent or as a teacher, will the fear of the big C (or some other chronic disease) arrest your hand (or cane) mid-air? Or silence that yell?

Or, in your opinion, would it cause more harm if you let a misdeed go (corporally) unpunished?


13 thoughts on “Is cancer a good enough reason not to hit your child?”

  1. …………”Was the beating the direct reason for her cancer? Or, to put it more bluntly, did her teacher really kill her?”

    Many teachers (and many adults) really ‘kill’ children by the way they treat them even though they may feel they have ‘good’ intentions of ‘hardening’ the children into ‘successful’ adults (unlike themselves); and I fully agree with the research findings but in this case, the cancer could also have developed due to multiple operations on the eye. One of the early findings on the probable causes of cancer also lists irritation as a cause!

    We definitely need sensitive schools and sensitive adults dealing with children – those in whom the child has not died! Wait for similar thoughts on

    1. Thanks, Rashmi. I think seasoned, progressive teachers like you have a big role in “beating” sense into both parents and teachers. Looking forward to to your blog, yeducationmatters.

  2. Yes, I’m aware of this connection and you say it so cogently… I hope this will deter parents and teachers from beating kids… thanks for this sobering post!

  3. This conclusion by the Journal seems more like an inductive leap, but then again most scientific studies do eventually take a leap of faith with their conclusions.

  4. i think its a fact… And we indians have yet not come out of marks structure…theres is intelligence beyond that as well…also….. Be human…and love every soul. …it will change the world for sure…

  5. In this case the moot point is whether the thrashing caused cancer. Presently what we have is one case of a child who was thrashed and developed cancer, this may point to an association, but not a very strong one at that. Consider this, most people of my age were thrashed (caning was a common sport of my school teachers). Of the 54 students in my class 1 has died of cancer, three of heart disease, 1 of lung disease and 3 of battle injuries. Does this mean that those who receive thrashing are three times more likely to die of battle injuries rather than cancer?

    1. Sound argument, Ravi Ghooi. So, do you think an occasional smacking should cause more good than harm? Ignoring scientific logic for a minute, do you think in the present day and circumstances, corporal punishment has a role to play?

  6. well, to put it very bluntly, why smacking, beating, physical harm for a human child, why behave like an animal when Human beings are gifted with the inborn talent of communicating, convincing another human being/human child. I feel that the physical move from a teacher to harm a child is the way of showing one’s own inability to teach or lacking the art of convincing the child, which is followed by physical harm to express the frustration. I personally feel that thrashing is the ultimate, even frequent scolding and expressing anger towards a child can lead to various mental complications. We can always find a major difference between a child who is brought up in a tensed/violent atmosphere and a child who is brought up with love, care and affection, these flowers blossom for a longer period than the former ones.

    Thanks for the invite on an important issue

    1. Thanks for sharing your view, Prem. Many parents rue the lack of a “Dummy’s Guide to …”; how do they learn the “art of convincing the child”? Most draw on their emotions (frustrations?),experiences and memories.No different is the case of a teacher, I suppose.

    2. Well said Prem! Its the elder’s inability to deal with the child that manifests in abuse (physical or emotional). Over the years that I have been teaching, I have seen the outcome of children receiving either love or abuse and I fully agree what you have said. 🙂

  7. I don’t think there is a clear line between the right behaviour and bad behaviour. The incidents in the articles listed above are clear examples of bad behavior by adults. Does ‘hitting a child’ mean a ‘slap on the wrist’ or does it mean ‘thrashing leading to head injury’? Surely, both can’t be lumped into the same category? Its hard to believe that both of these can lead to the same kind of long term adverse effects.

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