I have heard many claims that spanking is ineffective for disciplining kids? Is there any research to confirm or deny this?

  • 1
    Are you asking specifically about spanking or corporal punishment in general?
    – apoorv020
    Apr 9 '11 at 19:15
  • @apoorv020: Just spanking
    – Casebash
    Apr 9 '11 at 23:47
  • 5
    the very threat of spanking can cause children to behave. I know this from personal experience, my parents rarely spanked me, just telling them they would was usually enough. So yes, it can be effective.
    – jwenting
    Apr 10 '11 at 15:06

There is evidence that corporal punishment (CP) increases the risk of future agressive behaviour of the child ("Mothers' spanking of 3-year-old children and subsequent risk of children's aggressive behavior" published in Pediatrics). They state the following results of their study

Frequent use of CP (ie, mother's use of spanking more than twice in the previous month) when the child was 3 years of age was associated with increased risk for higher levels of child aggression when the child was 5 years of age (adjusted odds ratio: 1.49 [95% confidence interval: 1.2-1.8]; P < .0001), even with controlling for the child's level of aggression at age 3 and the aforementioned potential confounding factors and key demographic features.

From another study titled "Parental corporal punishment predicts behavior problems in early childhood" published in the Journal of Family Psychology

The results indicate that parental CP uniquely contributes to negative behavioral adjustment in children at both 36 months and at 1st grade, with the effects at the earlier age more pronounced in children with difficult temperaments.

A review titled "The risks and alternatives to physical punishment use with children" published in the Journal of Pediatric Healthcare states in the abstract

Despite strong evidence of negative developmental outcomes resulting from the use of physical (or corporal) punishment with children, its use by parents and other caregivers is common. Such negative outcomes include child aggression, mental health issues, and physical abuse.

The research on very mild forms of corporal punishment is not conclusive, as Dr. Kadzin states in an interview:

Research on very mild, infrequent spanking (e.g., one time/month) is inconclusive. When a parent moves beyond that to moderate or severe physical punishment, there are all sorts of untoward consequences—educational delays, psychological disorders and physical disorders, too.

An article in Scientific American summarizes the results of an APA task force that reviewed the literature on corporal punishment

In a presentation, she explained that the group of 15 experts in child development and psychology found correlations between physical punishment and an increase in childhood anxiety and depression, an increase in behavioral problems, including aggression, and impaired cognitive development—even when the child’s prepunishment behavior and development were taken into consideration.

One out of the 15 experts on the task force disagreed with the conclusion and recommends spanking as a backup when other way of disciplining don't work

There seems to be a general consensus that corporal punishment can have a negative effect on the development of a child. As a consequence, parents should choose methods to discipline their children that have fewer negative effects.

  • 3
    When you researched the issue did you encounter anything about corporal punishment as a last resort, and do the studies studies say anything about how the child aggression carries over into adult life?
    – Kit Sunde
    Apr 9 '11 at 14:17
  • 14
    Just remember that all studies that found insignificant results between spanking and future aggressive behavior were never published.
    – Glen
    Apr 9 '11 at 15:31
  • 4
    Although the studies focus on future negative side effects, they do not address the efficacy of the punishment in correcting the behaviors that they seeks to correct. Not to mention that I trust the APA as much as my dog after the recent publication of "human future-cognition" in an APA endorsed journal
    – crasic
    Apr 9 '11 at 17:27
  • 5
    @Glen: What makes you say that? Link?
    – Borror0
    Apr 9 '11 at 18:36
  • 4
    More to the point, it is very hard to get an article published where you report insignificant results (p-value>.05).
    – Glen
    Apr 10 '11 at 0:49

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