Ronda Kaysen: All you moms who cheered the man at Wal-Mart who slapped the screaming toddler, chew on this: Spanking toddlers doesn't make them more compliant. It actually makes them aggressive and dumb, a new study finds.
The study looked at 2,500 low-income kids and found that 1-year-olds who were regularly spanked were more aggressive a year later and didn't do as well as their corporal-punishment-free peers on cognitive tests when they turned 3.
"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," Lisa Berlin, the study's lead author and research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University, told CNN.
The study focused on low-income kids because parents in that demographic tend more often to use spanking as a form of discipline, researchers said. The study challenges the idea that the aggressive kids are the ones who are likely to be spanked -- and instead argues that it's the spanking that makes them aggressive. Fussier 1-year-olds, however, are more likely to be spanked than go-lucky ones.
"If the mother sees this fussiness as willful misbehavior and begins verbally punishing or spanking, rather than empathizing with the child, the child's behavior deteriorates into more tantrums and other frustrating behavior," said clinical psychologist Laura Markham.
Whether it's okay to spank older kids -- say, between the ages of 2 and 6 -- is still up for debate, with some researchers saying it's an effective method and others saying it just leads to more aggressive behavior down the road. Moms, what do you think: Is there ever a good age to spank your kids?
|Ronda Kaysen is a freelance writer. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post, BusinessWeek.com, Architectural Record, Huffington Post, New York Observer and AM New York. She lives in Brooklyn with her family.|