Spanking Makes Children More Aggressive, Study Shows

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Toddlers & Preschoolers, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens

A swat today could mean lots of timeouts later, new research shows. Credit: Corbis

If you think spanking a child makes him more belligerent, while your spouse believes it teaches discipline, you may just have the upper hand in the debate. A new study shows the link between corporal punishment and aggression is even stronger than previously thought, and the more you spank, the worse your child gets.

Researchers surveyed nearly 2,500 children in 20 large U.S. cities, and found those who were regularly spanked at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive 5-year-olds, according to an article in the May issue of Pediatrics. The researchers relied on mothers to report both their own spanking patterns and their children's behavior.

What makes this study different from the dozens of earlier reports showing a similar link is that the researchers accounted for other factors that could make a child more aggressive, such as physical and psychological abuse between parents and toward children, neglect, stress, substance abuse, depression and the consideration of abortion, lead author Catherine Taylor, assistant professor at Tulane's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, tells ParentDish.

Even accounting for those factors, the researchers found children who were subjected to even minor forms of corporal punishment -- specifically, those who were spanked three times or more in the month prior to the survey at age 3 -- were 50 percent more likely to be bullies, get into fights, be destructive or disobedient, attack people or scream a lot at age 5, Taylor says.

Despite studies showing that spanking is counterproductive and the American Academy of Pediatrics' recommendation against corporal punishment, most parents in the United States have used corporal punishment as a form of discipline. A 2005 poll showed 72 percent of adults thought it was OK to spank a child.

Taylor recommends that parents who want to find alternative ways of disciplining their children speak to their pediatrician or visit and search "discipline" or "spanking."

Related: Spanking Lowers IQ, According to Study

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.