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When Spanking Studies Collide

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Yet another new study on corporal punishment has us reeling.


We recently told you about a study that found that children who were regularly spanked were more aggressive and didn't do as well as their corporal-punishment-free peers on cognitive tests. But now a new study says that those spanked as young children are happier. Huh?

Researchers who studied the lives of 2,600 adults who were spanked between the ages of 2 and 6 found these folks scored better in academics, had higher educational aspirations, and were more confident than those whose parents "spared the rod."

This study contradicts the conventional wisdom that spanking is detrimental to a child's development.

What do you think?

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21 comments so far | Post a comment now
Lauren January 4, 2010, 6:57 PM

This topic certainly is controversial. Within a group of girlfriends who believe they have similar values and regularly swap parenting advice and techniques you are bound to find these women falling on opposite sides of this fence.

I believe spanking, when used in a controlled, consistent manner is acceptable - and that children benefit from the discipline that it instills.

What do I mean by controlled and consistent? Parents should decide what behaviors warrant a spanking, and then be consistent and exclusive in using it when a child exhibits those behaviors.

I have been witness to too many moms spanking out of anger and frustration. I don’t believe anyone will benefit from such physical punishment. The child will not know when to expect a spanking or necessarily understand why he/she has been spanked, and therefore won’t correct future behavior accordingly. Additionally, spanking in this manner can instill fear, resulting in self-confidence and social aptitude issues as an older child, teen and adult.

It does not surprise me at all that these studies vary. For every study you find condemning a “taboo” topic, you’ll find one supporting it.

Deb January 4, 2010, 7:07 PM

I am a Psychology major and in my Child Development class we were taught that while spanking may cause the child to stop for a little bit, it will not work long term. They might for a few minutes or maybe even a few hours, but beyond that the child really doesn’t see spanking as a big enough impact in their life to stop whatever it is that they are doing. Many studies have shown that it does make children more aggressive.

Monica January 4, 2010, 7:42 PM

I do not believe that is true Deb. While I know little devils in disguise who care less about a spanking I do know that when I was a child a spanking was what did it for me. I think spankings as the poster Lauren states need to be administered in a controlled and consistent manner. And that a child should receive a clear explanation as to why they are receiving it.

abbey January 4, 2010, 8:12 PM

I’ve been in the childcare business for over 15 years and have had quite a bit of experience with a myriad of different children. What I have learned, and what i try to make clear to all of the parents i interact with, is that no two children are the same. For some children, i wholly believe spanking is necessary for discipline (parents only; i’ve never spanked) - the child’s attention wanes quickly and that small bit of a spank is needed to grab their attention. For other children, spanking is completely unnecessary and a simple time out and a talking to is all that is needed. Even in the same family, discipline may need to be altered for each child depending on their sensitivity levels and discipline needs. And spanking, i believe, should not be used in every instance for every disciplinary action; a mixture of time outs & other sorts of disciplinary actions should be added and used alternatively depending on the misbehaviour. I guess the point that needs to be stressed the most, imo, is to know your kids and make sure the caregiver talks to the child to make sure they understand why the discipline was needed. And i also think that spanking should cease after a certain age, because then it looses its affect and just becomes a hassle.

Sad January 4, 2010, 10:42 PM

The picture makes me so sad.

Do I think spanking made me a happy person? No. It drove a wedge between me and my parents, caused me to lie and hide things from them more and ruined our trust. I wasn’t spanked often or “beaten”. I would consider it the typical experience.

Children are told they are spanked because it’s best for them, which leads to to think it’s for their own safety or good. Or they’re told “we only spank you because we love you”.

Let me tell you something: It took me quite awhile to realize the reason I stayed in an abusive relationship was because I thought his abuse showed how much he loved me and wanted to keep me safe from myself (whom I was taught could not be trusted). Even now in a healthy relationship, it took me several years before I could stop picking fights in order to feel close. We went through some rough times before I could connect my need for fighting ,and even abuse, with my past history of so-called “love” and security.

Anonymous January 5, 2010, 5:07 AM

I’m so tired of hearing about the evils of spanking. The majority of us grew up receiving spankings and we’re fine. We’re no raising a generation of entitled, selfish, super-special little unique snowflakes. Perhaps if spanking were still a usable tool (as described by the first poster) children would have a healthy amount of respect.

b January 5, 2010, 5:43 AM

is it really a surprise that those who were disciplined (and I say disciplined-not punished because disciplined has an entirely different meaning/purpose than punished) turn our happier? Those are the children who learn to make choices, accept consequences and then make choices based on desired outcomes. Be it spanking, grounding, time out or what have you. Children who are disciplined with a purpose (thanks, first poster) will be happier because they know the limits, and how to choose to be happy.

Anonymous January 5, 2010, 6:19 AM

Sorry, but I cannot fathom a single thing my children could do that would possibly deserve physical assault as punishment. Call it what you will - whatever helps you sleep at night.

Kris January 5, 2010, 8:09 AM

No matter how many studies are done, then published for the public to see, you as a parent will decide how best to raise your child. I understand and respect a parent’s right and choice to raise their child how they see fit, so on that note why must others condemn or even judge harshly and call others abusers or monsters for spanking their children hmm? I personally think a few if not a majority of these self entitled teens whom I see and hear doing things even I as an adult and a mother of three will never do even in the privacy of my own home need to be spanked or shown some tough love.

Lindy  January 5, 2010, 8:48 AM

I agree with the first Anonymous poster.

Pamala January 5, 2010, 9:13 AM

I didn’t want to spank but had to use it a few weeks ago, which killed me. I tried everything, talking, time outs, taking things away, ignoring her behavior, nothing worked. I spanked her, explaining that if she was going to do what she was doing, that there were consequences to her behavior and that she’d have to have the punishment. I explained what she did that was resulting in the spanking, how many spanks she would get, and what I would like her to learn from the spanking. Then I gave her 3 spankings, hugged her, told her that if she corrected her behavior she’d never have to experience that again, and what do you know, she hasn’t done it since.

So I really think it’s about how it’s done, and you have to explain. Spanking without explanation won’t work at all, cause kids don’t have that kind of memory. But apparently doing what I did (literally had a 20 minute conversation about what was happening and why it was happening) worked.

I don’t remember being spanked, I know I was cause my mom says so. Both my sister and I are happy, respectful, smart, and just generally good people.

I was also beaten by my dad, so I know the difference, I remember the beatings, not the spankings from my mom. So people need to stop acting like it is abuse.

PDeverit January 5, 2010, 10:14 AM

Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

Child buttock-battering (euphemistically labeled “spanking”,”swatting”,”switching”,”smacking”, “paddling”,or other cute-sounding names) for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

Plain Talk About Spanking
by Jordan Riak,

The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
by Tom Johnson,

by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit

Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

American Academy of Pediatrics,
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
Center For Effective Discipline,
PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,
Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

PDeverit January 5, 2010, 10:16 AM

The vast majority of professionals agree that child buttock-battering isn’t healthy. A marginal few (mostly religious fundamentalists as those at Calvin) think that child bottom-slapping is good. They use the same selective literalist interpretation of the Bible as was used to justify “witch”-burning, depraved torture methods for those accused of sin and heresy, slavery, racism, wife-beating, oppression of women and a host of other social ills.

Anonymous January 5, 2010, 10:37 AM

“think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.”
And what they are doing for the most part is raising self-important, self-entitled, out of control children who feel they are on the same level as adults and face no consequences whatsoever

friend January 5, 2010, 11:42 AM

children learn very quickly who they can step all over and not listen and take seriously. so if ‘spanking’ is not ‘allowed’, would not giving them dinner be considered abuse? what if they’ve gotten to the point where they just don’t care.

i think if words were enough to stop some people from doing socially unacceptable and illegal activities, force would not be necessary and we would not have war.

mercaties January 8, 2010, 1:16 AM

Wholy crap people some of you sure do take your spanking or not spanking seriously! I was not spanked as a child and my husband was neither of has ever been to prison in abusive relationships and we are both very close to our parents. Ultimately, I don’t think this issue defines who you become as a person whatsoever. Personally, with our children we don’t need to spank them to discipline them but would if we felt the occassion called for it. My three year old I will make him sit on the couch for five minutes (an eternity to a toddler) and our nine year old get’s her computer t.v. and video games shut off. Once my nine year old told her teacher to shut up and my husband and I drove her to the local Juvenile Detention Center and told she would have to stay there for a week if she ever did anything like that again. She hasn’t been in trouble since. LOL!

apostolopoulos john June 23, 2010, 10:31 AM



Ten Tees January 8, 2011, 2:26 PM

Interesting site. Nice to read. There is a single point to submit about shirts.

mrm January 12, 2011, 9:46 PM

I have read this debate for decades. I raised two children who are now in college. We definitely spanked them when no amount of reason, withholding of privilege, time-outing, you-name-it would stop the offensive behavior. And I can count on one hand the number of times I actually had to spank them.

That is the key. Spanking is a means of reminding them that ultimately, you are indeed the boss, and that you will stop they bad behavior, by physical means if necessary.

It does not make them better people. It does not discipline them as well as other methods. It’s not supposed to. You’re not supposed to just haul off and whack them and expect them to learn how to be better from that.

No. The idea is to stop an offensive behavior immediately when they will not stop and will not be reasoned with, and children do this. You can cajole, distract, threaten, withhold privilege, time-out all you want. For some kids, there will be times when they won’t stop until somebody spanks them.

And THEN… that CANNOT be the end of it! If you just spank them, it solves nothing. The sting wears off, and the next day, they’ll take their chances again. No. You have to follow it up with severe, long-lasting consequences. So that the next day, when they can’t go out to play, or they miss their favorite toys, etc, it reenforces what happened, “Oh, yeah, I was really bad and this is what happened to me.”

All the other methods of punishment, like time-outs, don’t work either if that’s all you do. Little Johnny obnoxiously grabs a cupcake off the counter and stuffs it in his mouth. You give him a time-out. What good is that? He got what he wanted! And next time, he’ll quickly calculate that 5 minutes in the time-out chair is well-worth that cupcake. You have to make him watch everyone else eating cupcakes for the next week and make sure he doesn’t get one. THAT will teach a lesson.

Well, spanking is the same thing. If you just whack him, he’ll calculate that the risk is worth the cupcake.

In short - only to control offensive behavior, and only when it is followed-up with long-term consequences. And then, by golly, yes. Spanking is necessary and useful.

If you have a really easy kid who doesn’t get out of line, good for you. But believe me, I’ve been in a lot of different households, and kids are awfully different, and it’s not just the parents. Some kids, particularly toddlers, are just plain obnoxious and disobedient and need a lot more restraint than others.

TealRose March 4, 2011, 12:39 PM

I am 56. And I don’t care - spanking aka HITTING a child is wrong. It’s wrong to hit an animal, or an adult and even a criminal, but somehow, in some places the word ‘discipline’ is mentioned and oh .. well thats fine then just hit that child! Discipline btw means to teach. No one deserves to be hit .. ever.

My parents taught me, by spanking me - fear, pain, anger, hate and resentment. They taught me parents/adults lie and will and can do anything they want and will get away with it. I learned that they didn’t love me - and no, the post spanking pep talk of ‘oh we love you’ meant nothing after all they had just hit me - and I didn’t go around hitting people!

For me - studies are NOT needed to tell me how wrong it is, I feel it in my heart and soul still every day. I know how wrong it is to hit someone. It’s physical and emotional abuse - and in some cases sexual abuse too. And it doesn’t matter if you don’t think it is, or aren’t ‘being sexual’ with that child, the mere fact you take their pants down and hit them on the bare, can make the child feel abused and THAT is the problem.

If you want to get a toddler’s attention try talking to them at their level, or taking them from the problem.

I never hit my children and they are now fine adults.

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