Spanking a Child do More Harm Than Good


Can a little spanking or whack on the behind hurt a child? A new study would suggest that physical punishment such a spanking can do more harm to a child than good.

"We're talking about infants and toddlers, and I think that just, cognitively, they just don't understand enough about right or wrong or punishment to benefit from being spanked," said Lisa Berlin, lead author and research scientist of the research.

Berlin, and her colleagues from Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University discovered that children who were spanked as 1-year-olds behaved more aggressively at age 2. She also found that they did not perform as well as other children on a test measuring thinking skills at age 3.

This study focused on children form low income families because prior research suggested that spanking is more common among low income families and adds stress. Berlin and her team discovered that African-American children were spanked significantly more frequently than Caucasian and Mexican-American families, and verbally punished more than the other children at ages 2 and 3, the study said.


They also found that spanking was used more among parents who were spanked themselves, who live in the South, and/or who identify themselves as conservative Christians. These parents also tend to believe in the effectiveness of spanking or believe the child is at fault in a given situation, the study said.

There are some people such as Robert Larzelere, associate professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University, who believes nothing ins wrong with spanking. He conducted a meta-analysis of 26 studies on the subject, and found that spanking seemed more effective than 10 of 13 alternative disciplinary methods.

Other known experts suggest parents should not resort to physical punishment at any age. Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of "Little Things Long Remembered: Making Your Children Feel Special Every Day," said parents need to discourage bad behaviors and can do so by taking away privileges such as dessert, TV, or an earlier bedtime. They should also reinforce good behaviors.

Elizabeth Gershoff, associate professor for the school of social work spent time recently analyzing 100 years of research and published studies on physical punishment, spanking in particular. Most findings indicate that spanking is an ineffective parenting practice within the United States and around the world. "There is growing momentum among other countries to enact legal bans on all forms of physical punishment," says Gershoff, whose research focuses on the impacts of parenting and violence exposure on child and youth development over time. The report, released in collaboration with the Phoenix Children's Hospital in Arizona offers a review of empirical research on the effects physical punishment has on children.

Spanking reinforces negative memories in the child's mind, Newman said. Parents should aim to build "prominent, happy memories" of childhood for their kids, she said. Newman and Gershoff both have completed separate studies this year indicating that spanking a child do more harm than good.

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