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Spare the Child: The Religious Roots of Punishment and the Psychological Impact of Physical Abuse Paperback – March 3, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 284 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 3, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679733388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679733386
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,935 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is a richly researched, acutely unsettling study of corporal punishment in the United States. It focuses on the "Christian" use of Biblical texts to justify corporal punishment and its destructive legacy in our culture. Greven's insightful scholarship traces rationales for parental brutality through generations of religious apocalyptic thinking. His forceful argument takes the issue of physical discipline from the realm of parental rights and tradition and makes finding an alternative a moral responsibility.

From Publishers Weekly

Greven marshalls a wealth of clinical evidence to show that beatings and spankings administered in childhood have long-lasting harmful consequences, including suppressed anger, self-hatred, recurring depressions, apathy, and stifling of compassion for oneself and others. A Rutgers history professor who teaches courses on the family, Greven maintains that the violence against children endemic in our society contributes to adults' unquestioning obedience to authority and to the oppression of women. He traces support for physical punishment to the Protestant belief that use of the rod is necessary to break the child's will; he also briefly outlines nonviolent alternatives to corporal punishment. Although this is more sociological treatise than childrearing guide, parents will benefit from this wise and liberating book.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 38 people found the following review helpful By cobb@rof.net on April 22, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is a powerful book. It may be too strong for those who most need to hear its message, but for every parent who has wondered about corporal punishment it will be an eye-opener. In Greven's inspired hands the stories of battered Christians through the ages come to life in a never-ending tale of appalling woe. That all this pain was delivered to children in the name of God and with the apparent sanction of holy scripture makes it all the more poignant, almost unbearable in its awful human tragedy.
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27 of 32 people found the following review helpful By R. Fields on May 29, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are a mere handful of insightful, non-dogmatic, loving authors who understand the vulnerability of children (we, who were children, and those who now are children for awhile), and who can open up for us those feelings which arose in childhood and mold us the rest of our lives. Mr Greven and Alice Miller are the two I admire most. This book is honest, insightful, non-judgemental and enlightening. Do not be afraid to question the wisdom of your forefathers in regards to punishing your children - read this and learn.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 23, 2000
Format: Paperback
This book is a compelling rebuttal to all those who claim that corporal punishment does not harm children. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about how experiences in childhood can and do affect our adult selves.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By P. J. Hernandez on November 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book, together with those by Alice Miller, showed me the truth about so-called "traditional family values." Or rather, they affirmed what I knew in my heart all along -- the simple, childlike understanding of truth that adulthood tries to force us to deny. The only way not to be swayed by Greven's argument, is to have made up your mind beforehand.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca Allen on March 22, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found out about this book through the bibliography of a parenting book I enjoyed. I almost did not buy it, because I needed no further convincing that corporal punishment was a bad idea. But I decided to buy it anyway, to better help me understand how the way I raised might have influenced the way I think -- I'd identified some connections, but suspected I hadn't found them all. I was right.

Greven pursues the connections between violence against children and depression, dissociation and apocalyptic thinking (all of which resonated with me). And he describes many others as well. Learning the beginnings of these problems does not necessarily solve them entirely, but it helps a lot.

Everyone in our society could benefit from reading this book. It provides a powerful argument against an all too common parenting tactic. It sheds light onto how corporal punishment has far-reaching emotional and psychological effects. And perhaps most important of all, it shows a strong connection between the apocalyptic thinking characteristic of evangelical Christians and the corporal punishment so many of them believe crucial to raising children.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Art on December 11, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the antidote to the "How to Train Up a Child" book that made the news for being responsible for brutal murders of children. It fully explores how religious fundamentalism is responsible for unspeakable abuse in the name of God.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Peter M. on July 31, 2013
Format: Paperback
After having read many of Alice Miller's books I was a bit skeptical about someone else being able to depict and empathize with the plight of an abused child - but, in a big way, Philip Greven has proven me wrong. This is an incredibly well-researched and argued work that strikes a perfect balance between scholarship (psychology, history, and religion) and the visceral pain that haunts the life of an adult whose childhood has been murdered by those who claimed to have loved him/her the most. Having come from an abusive family myself, I found so much my life laid bare on almost every page of Greven's book. Admittedly, this was not an easy exercise (I found myself in a heart-wrenching pause after many a paragraph), but it is precisely in acknowledging the brutality of our childhoods and identifying the culprits that healing may finally begin.

Thank you so much Professor Greven for your wonderful contribution. It is thanks to brilliant and courageous scholars like you that the infernal cycle of mutual sundering of our bodies and souls in the name of God and propriety may finally reach its long overdue end. I, for one, can hardly wait.
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