Spanking children has long been a controversial issue in today’s politically correct parenting culture. Many of us were spanked as children. We may have hated it then, but some of us also like the way we turned out because of it and strongly consider raising our children the same way.
However, in what is being called the most extensive scientific investigation into the matter, psychologists warn that the disciplinary spanking of children only makes them more rebellious, aggressive and may cause them to develop mental health issues later in life.
The new study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology, had researchers from the University of Texas and the University of Michigan conduct a meta-analysis of 50 years of data covering 160,000 American children.
Lead author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, said in a statement:
“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors.
“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”
For the study, spanking was defined as an open-handed smack of a child’s bottom or extremities
Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found that the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy parent in the long-term, become aggressive, develop mental health issues, anti-social behaviors, and even develop cognitive difficulties.
Researchers examined associations between spanking and 17 potentially negative outcomes, finding a significant link between spanking and 13 of the outcomes.
“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.”
And for those of us who say they would also spank their kids? The study unsurprisingly found that those who were spanked as children were also more likely to spank or physically punish their children, showing how the parenting method passes on down generations.
The researchers also found that there was little difference between the worst outcomes of spanking and physically abusing children.
“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors. Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree. We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline.”