Spanking Your Kids Actually Worsens Their Behavior & Can Cause More Harm Than Good, Says Study

Spanking Your Kids Actually Worsens Their Behavior & Can Cause More Harm Than Good, Says Study

The study analysed 69 papers from around the world to come to the conclusion.

Physical punishment as a means of disciplining your kids can cause severe harm to your child's behavior or social competence. A Lancet study published recently came to the conclusion reports CNN. The study is a review of 69 researchers on the subject around the world and found large evidence of the harmful approach of "spare the rod, spoil the child." Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor in human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and lead study author said, "Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior. Unfortunately for parents who hit, our research found clear and compelling evidence that physical punishment does not improve children's behavior and instead makes it worse." 


The study analyzed papers from countries like the US, Canada, China, Colombia, Greece, Turkey, Japan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. It did exclude verbal and other "severe" types of physical punishment such as  "hitting a child with an object; hitting or slapping on the face, head or ears; throwing an object at a child; beating; hitting with a fist; punching; kicking; washing a child's mouth out with soap; throwing down; choking; burning; scalding; and threatening with a knife or gun," according to Gershoff. There is no denying that some of the papers also showed some positives of spanking while others had mixed reviews. But the overall evidence of spanking as being more harmful was greater. Gershoff said in 13 of 19 independent studies, children showed "increased aggression, increased antisocial behavior, and increased disruptive behavior in school" when physically punished. 


One of the papers reviewed was from Colombia where it was found, children gained "fewer cognitive skills" when physically punished. In seven, the association between the frequency of such punishment and a child's negative behavior over time was found. "In other words, as physical punishment increased in frequency, so did its likelihood of predicting worse outcomes over time," she said. Others showed conduct problems and signs of oppositional defiant disorder, which included temper tantrums, argumentative active defiance and refusal to follow rules to name a few. Another study by Harvard we wrote about, concluded that the effects of spanking can be the same as when they are subjected to severe abuse and violence. Researchers conducted the study on a large group of children between 3 and 11 years old.


Of this, they particularly focused on 147 children around the ages of 10 and 11 who had been subjected to corporal punishment as a way of disciplining. These kids were then asked to undergo an MRI scan of their brains while watching images of actors making “fearful” and “neutral” faces. The scanner captured the children's brain activity when they saw the images. These pictures were then analyzed to determine whether the faces sparked different patterns of brain activity in children who were spanked as compared to those who were not. “In this study, we wanted to examine whether there was an impact of spanking at a neurobiological level, in terms of how the brain is developing," said  Katie A. McLaughlin, the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences at the university and senior study researcher.


She added, "We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behavior problems, and other mental health problems, but many people don’t think about spanking as a form of violence."

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