Spanking has been a long, contested topic of debate. On one hand, the way in which parents choose to discipline their children should be a private matter. On the other hand, should any parent be allowed to deliberately strike their children as a form of punishment?
While many parents continue to spank their children, over 30 countries have banned the practice of corporal punishment on children. Spanking is simply not allowed. But what does research have to say on the matter?
For starters, research has shown that there are risk factors that increase the likelihood that parents will spank their children. Mothers are more likely to spank their children if they are younger, experience more parental stress, or report that their child has a difficult temperament (MacKenzie, Nicklas, Brooks-Gunn and Waldfogel, 2011). In addition, first-born children are more at risk for spanking than their siblings.
But what are the consequences to spanking your children? According to the latest research, spanking can result in a host of harmful effects on children. A new study from the Canadian Medical Association Journal examined over 20 years of research and research studies on the effects of spanking. They discovered that spanking can cause long-term developmental damage in children, making them more likely to be aggressive and antisocial (French, 2012). It may also reduce grey-matter in the brain, effectively lowering a child’s IQ (French, 2012).
If it may be health hazard to spank your child, what else can you do?
Children less than 2 years old respond well to verbal correction and reasoning (Larzelere, Cox, and Smith, 2010; Larzelere et al., 1998). For older children, sending a child to their room or using a time-out scenario is as an effective way to discipline children and has even been used in treatment plans for children with ADHD, conduct disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder (Larzelere, Cox, and Smith, 2010; Eyberg, Nelson and Boggs, 2008).
Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not you choose to spank your child; however, it never hurts to know the latest research on the effects and effective alternative methods you can use.
Eyberg, S. M., Nelson, M. M., & Boggs, S. R. (2008). Evidence-based psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents with disruptive behavior. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 37, 215-237.
French, C. (2012, February 7). Spanking can cause long-term harm. Reuters.com. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/02/07/us-spanking-idUSTRE8161R220120207
Larzelere, R. E., Cox, R. B., & Smith, G. L. (2010). Do nonphysical punishments reduce antisocial behavior more than spanking? A comparison using the strongest previous causal evidence against spanking. BMC Pediatrics, 10(10), 1-17.
Larzelere, R. E., Sather, P. R., Schneider, W. N., Larson, D. B., & Pike, P. L. (1998). Punishment enhances reasoning’s effectiveness as a disciplinary response to toddlers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 388-403.
MacKenzie, M. J., Nicklas, R., Brooks-Gunn, J., & Waldfogel, J. (2011). Who spanks infants and toddlers? Evidence from fragile families and child well-being study. Child and Youth Services, 33(8), 1364-1373.
By Brittany Roshelle Davis