Children who are spanked have lower IQs, new research finds

Children who are spanked have lower IQs, new research finds
The higher the percent of parents in a nation who used corporal punishment with teenagers, the lower the national average IQ. Credit: Murray Straus

Children who are spanked have lower IQs worldwide, including in the United States, according to new groundbreaking research by University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus. The research results will be presented Friday, Sept. 25, 2009, at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif.

"All parents want smart . This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen," Straus says. "The results of this research have major implications for the well being of children across the globe."

"It is time for psychologists to recognize the need to help parents end the use of corporal punishment and incorporate that objective into their teaching and clinical practice. It also is time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no-spanking legislation," he says.

IQ and Spanking in America

Straus found that children in the United States who were spanked had lower IQs four years later than those who were not spanked.

Children who are spanked have lower IQs, new research finds
American children who were spanked had a lower cognitive ability score four years later. Credit: Murray Straus

Straus and Mallie Paschall, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, studied nationally representative samples of 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. Both groups were retested four years later.

IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked. The IQs of children ages 5 to 9 years old who were not spanked were 2.8 points higher four years later than the IQs of children the same age who were spanked.

"How often parents spanked made a difference. The more spanking the, the slower the development of the child's mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference," Straus says.

IQ and Spanking Worldwide

Straus also found a lower national average IQ in nations in which spanking was more prevalent. His analysis indicates the strongest link between corporal punishment and IQ was for those whose parents continued to use corporal punishment even when they were teenagers.

Straus and colleagues in 32 nations used data on corporal punishment experienced by 17,404 university students when they were children.

According to Straus, there are two explanations for the relation of corporal punishment to lower IQ.

Children who are spanked have lower IQs, new research finds
The More Spanking, the Greater the Probability of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms.

First, corporal punishment is extremely stressful and can become a chronic stressor for young children, who typically experience corporal punishment three or more times a week. For many it continues for years. The research found that the stress of corporal punishment shows up as an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms such as being fearful that terrible things are about to happen and being easily startled. These symptoms are associated with lower IQ.

Second, a higher national level of economic development underlies both fewer parents using corporal punishment and a higher national IQ.

The good news is that the use of corporal punishment has been decreasing worldwide, which may signal future gains in across the globe.

"The worldwide trend away from corporal punishment is most clearly reflected in the 24 nations that legally banned corporal punishment by 2009. Both the European Union and the United Nations have called on all member nations to prohibit corporal punishment by parents. Some of the 24 nations that prohibit corporal punishment by parents have made vigorous efforts to inform the public and assist in managing their children. In others little has been done to implement the prohibition," Straus says.

"Nevertheless, there is evidence that attitudes favoring corporal punishment and actual use of corporal punishment have been declining even in nations that have done little to implement the law and in nations which have not prohibited corporal punishment," he says.

Source: University of New Hampshire (news : web)

Citation: Children who are spanked have lower IQs, new research finds (2009, September 25) retrieved 16 July 2019 from
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Sep 25, 2009
Post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Wikipedia [http://en.wikiped...pter_hoc]

1) Parents with low IQs tend to have kids with low IQs.

2) Children who have significantly lower IQs may be frustrating to parents who don't know how to handle them.

3) Getting spanked a couple times is a real world education, since one's peers may do similar violent things. If coping with the real world lowers IQ, then there's no avoiding it. Would I rather have been hit occasionally by my parents (which I can hardly remember) or the neighborhood jerk who "didn't like my attitude"?

Another study proving what it was paid to prove, and producing a "politically correct" result. I.e., worse than useless, in a sense, a calculated lie.

Sep 25, 2009
Couldn't agree more docknowledge. It's also possible that parents with lower IQ's have shorter "fuses" and are more likely to spank. As you mentioned, lower IQ parents, tend to have lower IQ children. The study should have accounted for the parents' genetic influence before attempting to arrive at the conclusion that nurture affects IQ to this extent.

Sep 25, 2009
It all depends if you think that the study was specifically designed to sway people in one direction or another.

I doubt that the commenters here have read the study through in any manner. Like all statistical information, it can be manipulated if in the wrong hands and it can be manipulated in it's entirety from concerns around it's origins and data sets, with regards to their choosing and application proper.

All I'm saying is that I'm looking at the results of a study, and I have no idea of it's origins and I have no idea what it means.

However I -suspect- a broad correlation, but whether the correlation is universally applicable is the big deal and only reading the study and then doing my own to version of it will bring any sense of finality to my opinions and musings.. Just like all other studies we may read of.

As for parents and child IQ's. My parents are nowhere near as IQ laden as this kid. And no, we were not spanked, ever. Genetics can combine in interesting ways.

Sep 25, 2009
This one is as good as the silly global warming stories at new scientist. For this "study" to be seriuos, it would have to know what the childrens IQ's were at the start of the experiment. Then one could judge whether they went up, down, or remained the same. This passes for science? Just like global warming, make it up as you go for whatever social engineering you have in mind.

Sep 25, 2009
Regardless of this study, there's proven methods of disciplining children that don't require the parent to physically harm the child. Period.

Sep 25, 2009
It is blatantly obvious that Murray Straus and Mallie Paschall were spanked constantly as children. They now need to be beaten; unfortunately that is illegal.

Sep 25, 2009

Just to be clear, I have 3 children and have not spanked any of them.

My point is the ridiculous intrusions into our lives by certain people by using "science" to do so. Leave science and scientists out of social engineering and out of politics. As ordinary citizens, we should not allow the government to levy a new tax based on false science, as is being attempted regarding global warming. The average citizen will only grow weary and distrusting of scientific study if science is misused in this manner.

Sep 25, 2009
Well, this study explains why my old man always prefaced a spanking by yelling, "Don't get smart with me!"

Sep 25, 2009
corporal punishment is extremely stressful and can become a chronic stressor for young children, who typically experience corporal punishment three or more times a week. For many it continues for years. The research found that the stress of corporal punishment shows up as an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms such as being fearful that terrible things are about to happen and being easily startled. These symptoms are associated with lower IQ.

Huh... sounds like it's working, then? Spanking sounds like a vaccine against bad behavior!

Sep 25, 2009
Did anyone else notice the X axis label on the top graph?

"Percent Spanked or Hit A Lot As a Teenager"

No one ever said anything about abuse (see "hit" and "a lot"). When I was growing up I got spanked maybe once or twice every few weeks, depending on my devilishness at the time. But never was I hit by my parents.

There's a difference between a belt or switch to the behind and being struck with a closed fist (slapping is a little over-the-top too). My father always sat me down and explained exactly why I was about to be punished, and told me it was because he loved me and that he didn't want to see me grow up to be a miscreant.

My IQ is around 130 by the way.

Sep 25, 2009
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Sep 25, 2009
goddam! no wonder the generation who won WWII were so stoopid. I'd be willing to wager that Einstein's daddy whacked him on any number of occasions.

hellfire, children in the 1890's, 2 year olds in fact, knew how to sit still and be quiet. Why? Because they got whacked if they didn't. Children have been whacked since the beginning of time.

It's a wonder we ever came down from the trees.

Sep 25, 2009
Correlation does not equal causality.
Is it not possible that parents with a low IQ tend to spank their children more? Low IQ parents usually mean low IQ children.

Sep 25, 2009
Let me preempt any further outburts: "This study is trash... correlation is not causation... scientists getting paid off... these people are just like the ones who told us..."

Yes, how original, you are all so brilliant for restating the usual tropes.
In reality strong correlation usually hints at causation (though not always, and it can't be proven) and lends support to followup studies. Also, their are ways to control for the other variables such as IQ of the parents so the relationship can be teased out. It's not perfect in a correlational study, but it definitely isn't worthless and attempts to brand it as such are ignorant at best.

Sep 25, 2009
Just to prove it wrong I have a proved IQ of 156 (MENSA) and I was regularly beaten by my mum up till 12yrs. It stopped when she realized I was big enough to hit her back.
I have smacked my girls but only in love and NEVER in anger, and only up to about 6yrs and 9ys old.
My second is rather obstinate-I blame her Natal gifts from the planets.(-See Sleeping beauty).
"Give me a child up to 7 and I give you the man."
Both my children are showing signs of a very high IQ too.

Low IQ can also mean lower socioeconomic conditions; I've been studying nutrition lately and apparently low magnesium and calcium can disrupt your mood so you lose your temper much quicker and over very silly things, like shutting the door too hard;
Low magnesium increases the startle reflex-this is probably the cause of 'friendly fire' too.

My mum was a diabetic and I suspect she had this nutritional deficiency that affected her mood/temper.

Sep 25, 2009
No mention, either, of the socio-economic factors at play in the lives of these subjects. Household income? Inner-city or suburb? Single parent? Number of siblings? Preschool? Homeschool? Both Parents work? Stay at home parent? All of these factors(and more) influence the amount and quality of time spent with a child, and the amount and quality of care and attention they receive, which also correlates with IQ. Teasing out one factor in the lives of children and claiming it is the smoking gun for any given observed trait is deeply flawed science.

Sep 25, 2009
The best thing to be said about this study, and most of the studies that come from the intellectually bankrupt universities and physiologists these days is that the study is deliberately intellectually dishonest and anyone who is involved in it or who actually believes it should be laughted out of the room.

Ive talked to my 7 year old about this study and he was able to come up with quite a few reasons why this study is flawed, and he himself doesnt believe it. He asked me if grownups beleive this study, I said some do. He asked why, I just shrugged my shoulders as I didnt want to discuss how brainwashed some people are and how dishonest others are.

Sep 25, 2009
Individual data points can't be used to either prove or disprove a statistical claim. A single person with a high IQ who was spanked as a child means nothing.

There's nothing in this article to show that causation has been established, only correlation, but you don't need clones to establish a probable causation either (and a single clone pair wouldn't even do that), though they're obviously helpful. You only need to control for other variables which might be causative.

If it were otherwise, the causative link between smoking and lung cancer would not be considered 'proven' (i.e. overwhelmingly probable). Many a heavy smoker has escaped the disease, and no small number of non-smokers have contracted it. I'd be surprised if cases don't exist where one identical twin (natural clone) smoked and the other didn't; I wouldn't rely solely on such a case in trying to reach a conclusion.

Sep 25, 2009
Nice to see how the truth hurts, nice.

Oh yeah, I am so stupid. What happens is that the study is so irrelevant that a lot of people decided to spend time writing against how stupid it is...

The truth hurts, and one will see strong emotional reactions when some truth is presented.

People who are attacked in any way by their parents are not the same that people who are raised with care. Anger and hatred is a mental disorder that our parents give us.

I was treated very poorly as a kid and teenager, by the way.

And actually, regarding some of the comments, when parents attack their children is way more hurting than when is a stranger. You will never forget the times your parents beat you up. If you do so it is probably because you are doing a strong conscious effort to suppress those memories. Take some LSD or some marijuana, and the memories will come straight to you. Those are most of the contents of what people call "bad trips".

It is hard to ACCEPT the truth, it hurts

Sep 25, 2009
I call foul, the first graph says "spanked or hit a lot". This study doesn't seem to differentiate much between a disciplinary spanking and being brutalized. A disciplinary spanking is painful to a youngster and should be, but not so much as to actually injure it and a spanking is a few slaps to the butt, not a punch to the face. Being brutalized is entirely different. Its purpose is to inflict real harm and injury with intense pain and induce submissive fear.

That's the way I read the information here and on the PIRE website. The research is poorly presented or poorly done, could be either but somebody is going to get a spanking over this.

Sep 25, 2009
ah, and for all the "scientists"...

if you have an animal in an experimental context, and you supply punishment, and then you measure stress hormones in blood. Guess what, they are going to be up! no surprise here.

The constant release of stress hormones has been proof to produce apoptosis in neuronal tissues. And I am not sure if the "scientists" realized that you need your brain to think!@

And another thing. If someone is brutalized (verbally or physically), they can be big achievers, of course they can. They feel worthless and they need that they need to proof they are worth.

There are many biographies of eminent scientists with painful childhood scars, that probably had to do with their performance. An example, Isaac Newton who was abandoned by his mother. Or Paul Dirac.

I will raise my child to be like Richard Feynman, who was excellent due to the careful foster of his father, not the deeply repressed feelings of worthless like Sir Isaac Newton.

My son name is Isaac...

Sep 25, 2009
The first unknown in the experiment is IQ itself: no method can guarantee culturally unbiased measurement of intelligence. Besides, we do not agree upon the very definition of "intelligence". What is it - curiosity, cognition, adaptability? And who can quantify them?

Bad science, indeed.

Sep 25, 2009
The first unknown in the study is IQ itself: no method can guarantee culturally unbiased measurement of intelligence. Besides, we do not agree upon the very definition of "intelligence". What is it - curiosity, cognition, adaptability? And who can quantify them?

Bad science, indeed.

Sep 26, 2009
It's nothing wrong to carry out and publish this sort of research.
Hmm, now I have to admit my IQ is lower, because I was always spanked by my old-schooled parents. Indeed I was slower than those who wasn't spanked at all who I know, but I'm changing faster as slowly liberated. So, be careful, guys.

Sep 26, 2009
A strested home environment leads to
1) for the parents being closer to using violence. (even illness)
2) for the children lower IQ and development.

And there are a million reasons why there is a strested home environment.

I don't mind the data but I do mind the assumed direct correlation.

Sep 26, 2009
I would imagine that the higher the IQ of the child, the sooner they realise that bad behaviour leads to spanking. I have a respectably high IQ and I was only spanked when I considered the consequences of said behaviour to be worth it. Even if this study did have validity, I would take my child having a sub genius IQ over having an uncontrollable reprobate with a criminal record.

Sep 26, 2009
Ive now heard this study being parroted by ABC, NBC, CNN with no discussion on how stupid, badly flawed the study is.

Right now seriously flawed studies from how parents interact with their children, religion, health care, global warming, how conservatives think, etc. are being presented by so called scientists who instead of trying to find the truth, want to prove their point that certain points of view is more superior than another. Then the media who are just as biased, and want to promote these same views, instead of investigating and reporting, promote the studies that purportedly prove their views and ignore or discredit

I am reminded of a quote from Henry David Thoreau. Fashion is not cloths, but leftwing ideas, Paris is the universities, and America is the news media.

We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same

Sep 26, 2009
Why would anyone
- spend time and money on research like this?
- believe the faulty research?
Spend research money on something that counts.

Sep 26, 2009
I am reminded of a quote from Henry David Thoreau. Fashion is not cloths, but leftwing ideas, Paris is the universities, and America is the news media.

We worship not the Graces, nor the Parcae, but Fashion. She spins and weaves and cuts with full authority. The head monkey at Paris puts on a traveler's cap, and all the monkeys in America do the same

I bet my gggg-uncle Thoreau would agree, but who really knows?

Sep 27, 2009
Dendo: "Leave science and scientists out of social engineering and out of politics"

Excuse me, but what an ignorant statement. You have it backwards, leave politics and social engineering out of science. In other words, don't try to politicize science and don't try interfere with science if it runs counter to the wishes of the social engineers.

You are clearly not a scientist or engineer to say such a thing nor apparently even understand anything about the scientific method.
A scientific approach is the best approach when trying to objectively in a systematic fashion acquire information about social phenomena. If politics was infused with a more scientific attitude then we would be living in a much more harmonious world.
In regard to this article, I haven't read the study but I suspect that other factors weren't accounted for. Correlation doesn't necessarily point to causality. Stop putting quotations around studies you disagree with. That is the mark of a laymen idiot in my book.

Sep 27, 2009
You bet! Don't get physical with your teenagers.
Much better to have them enlist in the military
where gentleness, kindness, and compassion prevail.
Or is that why 'military intelligence' is an oxymoron? :)

Sep 27, 2009
This is bad news for the sadists who still think that beating their children is the only way to discipline them. The sadists are beating their children stupid. Then the kids bring home report cards with F's and what happens? More beatings. Then the kids grow up and what do they do? They beat their own children stupid. Rinse, wash, repeat.

Sep 27, 2009
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Sep 27, 2009
My point is the ridiculous intrusions into our lives by certain people by using "science" to do so. Leave science and scientists out of social engineering and out of politics.

It happened in New York City years ago. The Social Services / Social workers were taken to court because they were taking children out of homes that had no reason to be taken from the homes . The courts decided these social workers were **criminally** taking the children out of homes in order to "make work" for themselves.
The COURTS had to become involved.
These studies are just more of the same 'evidence' in order to take children out of "abusive" homes and the ability to strike your child **at all** is going to be frowned upon and may even become part of your permanent record / IE: possible child abuser.
Imho ..

Sep 27, 2009
The authors of this article do indeed seem to have an agenda: reducing delays or retardation in the acquisition of advanced cognitive skills in children. According to this article, these authors acquired data from two sources: (a) two representational samples of children in the US, (b) a multi-national sample of college-aged people. All three of these sources, as can be gleaned from this article reveal statistically significant associations between an individual's familiarity with physical punishment and that individual's likelihood of experiencing smaller gains intellectually.

/The first sign of someone with an agenda is publicly questioning the agenda of those whose preparation and abilities clearly exceed their own
//People who cite their membership in MENSA or their own IQs do not generally understand the concept
///They did know the IQ scores of the child studies at the outset, that's kind of the point
////"representational," sample

Sep 27, 2009
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Sep 27, 2009
Children that are more intelligent quickly understand the nuances
of our language and culture and much more accurately respond to
expectations and have more realistic expectations themselves. This
leads to "correct" responses so they avoid harsher direction - often
Spanking is a result of lack of intelligence, not the cause.

Sep 28, 2009

The point of my entry was just that!. KEEP SCIENCE AND SCIENTISTS PURE. don't use them for the paymaster's social engineering or tax generating purposes.

THe influence is undeniable. Just look at the global warming scam. (check out all of the recent Global Warming stories on New scientist to get a feel for just how ridiculous it has become. Most recently New Scientist posted a story about how the tenderness of my pork was being impacted by global warming! Ugh.).

THe poor scientist, being just like evryone else, needs to feed his family, so he unfortunately is able to be influenced by the social and tax engineers. THIS MUST STOP. RETURN THE PURITY TO SCIENTIFIC STUDY.

I may be a layman, and I may be an idiot, but even a layman idiot can spot a farce. THis study was a farce, and judging by most comments here, most people would agree.

Sep 28, 2009
All one has to do is spend an afternoon in the circus. the animals with less intelligent get prodded by their instincts, while the clowns and other human performers are smart enough to be prodded by their own self interests and verbal exchanges.

look at it as a spectrum. the farther you go up the scale the easier it is to use other methods. however, the higher up the scale the more your methods better be based on some sort of reason and logic. otherwise you end up beating the smart ones stupid.

shame that social engineers can experiment in peoples lives. kind of like bridge engineers experimenting in their building creations and learning by how many bridges they make collapse with poor ideas they claim (if work) put us at the forefront of 'progress'. but progess to where? if it isnt to go out and be fruitful in the universe, then what is it. i am sure that stagnation is not progress, and thats what liberal left want as it affords the rulership genetic dominance in a wait state

Sep 28, 2009
Correlation does not prove causation, remember this. However this does show a positive trend. This could be that uneducated parents tend to spank their kids more often than educated parents who know that spanking and harsh punishment does nothing but make things worse, thus altering the childrens' behavior in a negative way and eventually affecting their intelligence. Also the uneducated parents may not be teaching their children as wealthier and/or educated people do (since there is an economic barrier and other as well).

Sep 28, 2009
Absolute idiotic conclusion. Whether you believe in spanking or not, how could these scientists conclude that it lowers IQ without taking into account the IQ of the whole family? Some sort of normalization has to be done or they are just spreading lunacy.

Sep 28, 2009
@LWM: "representational sample"

They are not the ones spreading lunacy.

Sep 28, 2009
Lets just call it for what it is. Social Scientists these days are putting out blatantly stupid and biased studies which is then picked up and parroted by the blatantly stupid and biased press all to push and promote their agenda which is: Traditional parenting bad. Christians bad and stupid. Conservatives Bad and stupid. Liberals smart, intelligent. etc.

Enought is enough. What the left and right wing people of integrity should do is humiliate the scientists and media when they put out biased trash and call it science. What I would like to do is debate the issues with accurate facts.

I think we can agree that any study that demeans traditional parents, christians (or any religious or non religious people), conservatives or liberals is just promoting an agenda.

Sep 28, 2009
A yogi commented that when you see an act of rage, usually the human was angry BEFORE the presentation of what he believes was offensive.

A classic experiment (for the "scientists"), repeated many times, shows that when a two rats are placed in an experimental chamber, and one of them receives random electric shocks, the rat receiving the shocks will attack the second rat without any involvement of the second rat. So, application of stress to a rat elicits aggression towards organisms in the immediate space.

All you that favor beating children, you can't deal with your anger, your environment gives you stress, and your children pay the consequences.

violent = lower IQ = low acceptance = low learning

Those are the people who blame the Jews for the holocaust and the blacks for slavery = "If they would be intelligent, they would expect that in any moment an army of angry pigs would come to kill them"

As for your children "if he would be intelligent, he would vanish"

Sep 28, 2009
The fact that you beat your children shows how weak and coward you are, not the child's IQs.

I bet the highlights of the childhood of the "child beaters", besides being beat themselves, has some other "nice family traditions"... your daddies probably gave you more than spankings, they might gave you some non-consensual mutilation of functioning sexual tissues? (=circumcision)

that is how they raised such loving people!

Sep 29, 2009
Not just a stupid study for all the reasons listed above... IT IS POLITICALLY INCORRECT !!!


Don't they understand that describing "nations" as having lower IQs than some other "nations" encourages a bias based on national origins!!!

P.S. ...normalizing IQ tests across nations must be real "fun" given the tremendous range in exposure to logical thinking, testing, written language, television, etc. etc.

Can we now say STUPID STUDY to the 3rd degree?

Sep 29, 2009
Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

Child buttock-battering 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.

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.

Sep 29, 2009
Has the IQ on this board dropped? Spanking = sexual abuse, spanking = cowardice, spanking = circumcision. Spanking = beatings. Linking spankings to slavery and the holocaust. I think those that believe the above proves the failure of outcome based education. Anyone who believes that is beyond hope and beyond belief, and proves the failure of outcome based educational system and proves that they have developed expertitis. A disease known to reduce IQ whose symptoms include the belief that anything a expert, snake oil salesman, or Politician says is true. People infected also lose commonsense, and gain a sense of superiority.
Getting back to the original study. Does anybody believe this study was well done and the results accurate?

Sep 29, 2009
Does anybody believe this study was well done and the results accurate?

Yep. As best it could be, given that it is part of what scientists call, "normal science." Just that those questioning it's results, agenda, etc., appear to have very little understanding of what the terms in the article actually mean, how to evaluate psychological studies, or really any desire to actually learn. So there's very little else to do in the way of discussion, other than watch people get angry about well-meaning scientists who appear to have done much more to help humanity than the spankers in the comments ever will.

/armchair quarterbacking without knowledge of the rules of the game may be fun, but is pretty meaningless

Sep 29, 2009

Hard to overlook though the millions of people who'd report better lives based on the application of psychological findings. I like to be critical of the science; I think it improves it. Just because it's findings contradict what some people wish it would find, however, is no reason to discount the science itself. Neither does the state of the science's methods: we invest tons of money in meteorology. That science's ability to predict local weather patterns is notoriously deficient. I think it's worth continuing to study it (and fund research in it) though, because maybe over time they can improve it to a more meaningful state. If I just dismissed meteorology outright because it was too fuzzy of a science or didn't predict the weather I wanted (which explains the reaction to this IQ & spanking article particularly I think), I and others would suffer from doing so. I often am called upon to support conclusions I don't like, but the empirical evidence is there

Sep 29, 2009
what people miss is the poor science in this. If we use the Meterology example, its like putting a thermometer in an air condidtioned house, one in a unheated house, one outside in full sun, then using the one which we feel like using to prove the point that it is either hot, overly hot, or just right.

When my 7 year old is able to poke holes in the study there is something deeply wrong. Correlation doesnt prove anything especially in this case. Its just as poor as saying 100% of anyone who has ever breathed O2 will die.

Sep 29, 2009
Straus does make some leaps in speculating about his findings. I look at those, but don't focus on them. His findings are fairly consistent with what others are finding about the effects of physical punishment in different ways. I think the science underlying it is actually fine (though limited as it is, it seems to be the standard); it's the interpretation of those results that are maybe controversial here. Straus is trying to identify the third variable problem associated with correlations here in the article (PTSD). At a conference, I would challenge this as the third variable--lower IQ gain and physical punishment may indeed be both controlled by some missing causal source. Straus does find a temporal order in the correlation, however, which would indicate that the physical punishment does precede the lowering of IQs. It could be the economics of the larger society that increases stress and therefore leads to both increased physical punishment

Sep 29, 2009
and reduced IQ. Economic stress increases parent irritability, which decreases tolerance and increases the physical punishment rates (via displacement). Physical punishment is, in turn, heavily reinforcing for the parents (as it is effective at stopping a behavior quickly--though it does not teach anything by itself, and indeed often makes the behavior worse in the long-run). This then, tends to become the primary solution to solving difficulties with children for stressed parents. Being the primary solution, less verbal behavior occurs around problem solving. Verbal behavior is itself highly correlated with IQ. So, increased use of physical punishment to resolve issues leads to less verbal discussion (and therefore the ability to take the perspectives of others), which has been shown deflate IQ scores. When I read this article, I see a single project among many attempting to identify the operant relationships. This one may be worth noting, but it's just part of many articles.

Sep 30, 2009
The other variable is what do they consider a spanking. It seems that people here on the board (and also in the study) would call a slap on the backside a beating equivallent to striking a child with a tire iron.

Any good study needs to control and define its variables. What is a spank(people with agendas hate to define things... anyone remember the phrase it depends on what is is?) Define what IQ tests your going to use. Do the parents only rely on spankings? How many spanks? Are they inner city kids? Are they kids raised by a single parent? Do the parents use drugs? Is there verbal abuse?

To do this study correctly you need a good sampling of dual parents, in the same socioeconomic situation, one set agrees only to agreed upon spanking (5 slaps to backside, no marks) (no talking to), one using both spanks (again 5 slaps to backside, no marks) and talking tos, and one not using any physical punishments. Take IQ at begining, then 1 year and 2 years later.

Sep 30, 2009
The only thing I take from this study is that lower iq children get spanked more. It doesn't mean that spanking lowers iq.

As lower iq children are generally at a disadvantage from birth anyway it just suggests that spanking is a norm in the up bringing of people with lower iqs.

The simple fact is that it's always better if you can restrain yourself from spanking but as we are animals and have our own hormonal and psychological factors involved in our decision making processes that it not always possible.

Sep 30, 2009
Yep. You know, I was wondering something after thinking about the comments here. When I read this article, I didn't think it was that ground-shattering. More like one small piece of evidence in a larger body of work on child-rearing practices. Its findings are actually literally small: the difference between spanked and not, though significant, falls within the mean error on standard IQ tests. So basically it's saying that the correlation is there enough to say there is a relationship, but the actual effect of that relationship is small (which does often indicate a third variable).

But that's not how some people see it though apparently. Instead they assert a social agenda from this research. I wonder at times if it's something in the way psychologists deliver their findings that somehow puts people off or makes them think that. Psychologists are generally not good enough sociologists to form an agenda

Probably too reflective. I'll get back to being snarky next time, I promise

Oct 06, 2009
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