Spanking Can Make Children More Aggressive Later: Study

April 12, 2010 by Keith Brannon

( -- Children who are spanked frequently at age 3 are more likely to be aggressive when they’re 5, even when you account for possible confounding factors, according to a new study co-authored by Tulane University School of Public Health community health researcher Catherine Taylor.

The study, “Mothers’ Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children’s ,” will appear in the May issue of Pediatrics.

that are spanked more frequently at age 3 are at increased risk for being more aggressive at age 5,” said Taylor, assistant professor of Community Health Sciences at Tulane and lead author of the study. “We found this to be true even after taking into account other factors that might have explained this association such as the parents’ level of stress, depression, use of drugs or alcohol, and the presence of other aggression within the family.”

Study authors asked nearly 2,500 mothers how often they spanked their 3-year-old child in the past month, as well as questions about their child’s level of aggression, demographic features and eight identified maternal parenting risk factors. Almost half (45.6 percent) of the mothers reported no spanking in the previous month, while 27.9 percent reported spanking one or two times, and 26.5 percent reported spanking more than twice. Mothers with more parenting risk factors were more likely to spank frequently. However, even accounting for these potential confounding factors, frequent spanking at age 3 increased the odds of higher levels of aggression at age 5. Signs of included behaviors such as arguing or screaming; cruelty, bullying or meanness to others; destroys things; fighting and frequently threatening others.

Despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics against spanking, most parents in the United States approve of and have used corporal as a form of child discipline. The study suggests that even minor forms of corporal punishment increase the risk for child aggressive behavior.

“There are ways to discipline children effectively that do not involve hitting them and that can actually lower their risk for being more aggressive,” Taylor said. “So the good news is, parents don’t have to rely on spanking to get the results that they want. If they avoid but instead use effective, non-physical types of discipline, their child has a better chance of being healthier, and behaving better later.”

The study, which is available online at , is co-authored by Jennifer A. Manganello, assistant professor in the Department of Health Policy, Management and Behavior at the University at Albany, SUNY, School of Public Health; Shawna J. Lee, assistant professor at the School of Social Work at Wayne State University and Janet. C. Rice, associate professor of biostatistics at Tulane.

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1 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2010
The study is available online but only behind a paywall (shame given the importance of and general interest in the research not to make it freely available). For abstract
4.3 / 5 (3) Apr 13, 2010
Would have to read the study, but couldn't it be that the aggressive behaviour was causual to being spanked more in the first place?

4 / 5 (4) Apr 13, 2010
As diva4d already pointed out association is not causation. A better explanation is that difficult children (who later become aggressive) can only be subdued by spanking. That this explanation is not even mentioned indicates an agenda.
5 / 5 (1) Apr 13, 2010
Aggression is an essential human trait that is not bad in itself. I would be interested in how they define an agressive 5 year old. If someone hit my kid, I'd rather they fight back than sit and cry about it. Would defending themselves make them "aggressive"?
2.2 / 5 (6) Apr 13, 2010
My experience raising 4 kids and watching numerous parents is that often times out of control kids are ignored by their parents and worse yet these same parents think their kids are wonderfully behaved, so asking mothers what they thought of their kids is a bid dumb.

With our kids we practiced spanking and it ran the gambit. One barely needed anything more than a looking at, while another needed it fairly often for a while.

Comparing them to other kids who are not disciplined (admittedly from a biased standpoint) my kids are more caring about others, more self controlled outside our home, than none spanked kids. Its not just my opinion, but comments from other parents and teachers.

In my experience with kids, the the more kind and self controlled a kid is, the more likely they come from homes that practice spankings.

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