Does Spanking Children Make Them Better Adults?


While many parents are using time out techniques, positive reinforcement, and other gentle disciplinary methods for their children, Marjorie Gunnoe, a psychology professor at Michigan's Calvin College, believes her research is a thumbs up to give children spankings.

Gunnoe’s findings were taken from interviews of more than 2,600 people, including a core group of 179 teenagers. The teens were asked how old they were when they were spanked and how often it happened. Their answers were compared with information they gave about their behaviors that could have been influenced by spanking.

The study discovered that children who remember being spanked on the backside with an open hand do better in school, perform more volunteer work and are more optimistic than others who were not physically disciplined. "This in no way should be thought of as a green light for spanking," said Gunnoe.

Her research very much so contradicts past studies that spanked children are more aggressive and has other detrimental consequences. "This is a red light for people who want to legally limit how parents choose to discipline their children," she said. "I don't promote spanking, but there's not the evidence to outlaw it."


Dr. Diane Sackas, former president of the Canadian Pediatrics Society, assures people that past research has proven that spanking, whether short or long-term, leads to "bad, physical behaviors." Sackas further states, "Many studies show that when children are spanked in order to teach, they don't learn," said Dr. Sackas, a pediatrician with 35 years experience says emphasizes, "When afraid, children learn poorly. Fear is a very bad teacher."

Grant Wilson, who is the president of the Canadian Children's Rights Council, is suggesting that Gunnoe’s study's results might be influenced by Calvin College's Christian affiliation, adding that some religious groups have opposed abolition of corporal punishment.

"People get confused over what discipline is -- it's not hitting children," Wilson said. "There are better methods of parenting rather than hitting.... It's not OK to hit children."

Gabe Griffin, of Pediatric Psychologists of West Michigan, warns against embracing a new style of parenting. "It can very easily cross over from a discipline in a calm, measured way to an out of control moment," Griffin said. "Parents always think it’s in a controlled manner, but clearly it's not.

Griffin advises parents to focus more on altering behavior through teaching and praise. Time-outs and taking away privileges often work. "Pay attention to them when they do it right," he said.