New Study Suggests Spanking Detrimental to Development

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June 3rd, 2016

(Courtesy Wikicommons)

                                                              (Courtesy Wikicommons)

A recent study released in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology shows spanking children has many adverse effects on kids – both in the short term and long term. KVNO’s Brandon McDermott takes a look at the study and files this report.


Elizabeth Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor from the University of Texas and University of Michigan, respectively, released their meta-analysis study in April.

The two based their analysis on more than 70 previous studies conducted on nearly 160,000 children. The researchers defined spanking as: hitting a child on the buttocks with an open hand. Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor identified 17 negative traits or behaviors, things like aggression and lower I.Q. Out of those 17 traits, spanking was linked to 13.

Juan Casas is associate professor of Psychology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He says while some spanking may be well intentioned, parents need to think about what spanking teaches kids about physical contact and correction.

“We want kids to understand why it’s not a good idea, how it’s impacting other people, how it can negatively impact them, and how they would feel if they were being hit, or if they were being treated poorly by an adult or by another child on the playground,” Casas said.

Casas says in the short term, spanking children may seem beneficial. But the child stops the ‘unwanted behavior’ only because they are afraid of the spanking. Instead, he says, the goal should be to create recognition in children between the unwanted behavior and finding other positive alternatives to the behavior.

Brandon Barba was born and raised in Omaha. He is now raising his son.

“I got spanked, more than my share, I think,” Barba said. “When we were growing up our generation it seemed like more socially acceptable to get spanked. But by time we were you know of finishing high school, it was unheard of people getting spanked.”

Barba is mostly un-phased to hear about a study linking spanking to negative behaviors. He says what he considers a spanking might be different from the next dad.

“But I mean you know the spankings nowadays like I give my son, is a couple pats on the butt that aren’t even going to hurt him. It’s more saying ‘you need to stop doing that.’

Casas says while good dads like Barba only employ the occasional “love pat” from time to time, he says there’s no arguing with decades worth of data.

“Spanking doesn’t produce any positive benefits with regards to changing the amount of control that kids have or eliminating the negative behaviors that parents are interested in trying to reduce and in fact are associated with a host of negative outcomes really are problematic.”

Casas says there are externalizing and internalizing effects of spanking for kids as they grow to adolescence. Depression, anxiety, anti-social tendencies… all things Casas say are directly linked to spanking.

“Well we don’t do enough in this country or anywhere else for that matter, is really talk to parents about what science can tell us about how to improve parenting. What we can do is try to offer guidelines that, if they’re used consistently are likely to lead to better outcomes. Again, both in the short term as well as in the long term.”

Spanking is largely considered a parents’ right in the United States. Around the world, however, more than 40 countries, including Germany and Brazil have banned it.

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