Kids still spanked, to their detriment, study finds

Kids still spanked, to their detriment, study finds
Poorer language skills and behavior found at age 9 for children physically punished years earlier.
(HealthDay)—Spanking can affect a child's behavior and learning ability for years, with the impact of physical discipline reverberating even as kids near adolescence, a new study suggests.

Nine-year-olds who were spanked at least twice a week by their mother at 3 or 5 are much more likely to break rules and act aggressively than who weren't spanked, according to the study, which was published online Oct. 21 in the journal Pediatrics.

Those children also were more likely to score lower on vocabulary and language-comprehension tests if their fathers spanked them twice weekly or more at age 5.

"We found there were impacts not just on the behavioral development that folks normally look at, but also on markers of cognitive development, like the verbal capacity of the child," said co-author Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City. "These effects are long-lasting. They aren't just short-term problems that wash out over time. And the effects were stronger for those who were spanked more than twice a week."

MacKenzie described the findings as "one additional brick" to lay on the growing pile of research that links to aggression and behavior problems.

A study published in March found that spanking kids who have a genetic predisposition to makes them more aggressive. Canadian researchers in July released a study that found that up to 7 percent of a range of adult mental-health disorders were associated with physical punishment during childhood.

"People keep finding it again and again," MacKenzie said. "Spanking may be the largest contributing factor to a child's acting out."

Thirty-two countries prohibit physical punishment of children by parents or caregivers, but the practice is allowed in the United States and Canada. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends against the use of as a form of child discipline.

The Columbia study focused on nearly 2,000 families in 20 cities in the United States.

When kids were 3 and 5 years old, researchers asked parents how often they had spanked their child in the previous month because the kid was misbehaving. The researchers assessed the children's aggressive behavior and vocabulary at ages 3 and 9.

Overall, 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers spanked their children at age 3, while 52 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers reported spanking at age 5.

Children whose mothers spanked them at ages 3 and 5 proved more likely to act aggressively and break rules at age 9, the researchers found.

Age 5 appears to be a particularly tender age. Any amount of maternal spanking made a child more likely to act out by age 9, the researchers found. By comparison, only frequent spanking—twice or more a week—at age 3 had an effect on 9-year-olds' aggression.

"I think this finding—now consistent in the research literature—surprises people who have used spanking because they tend to focus on results they can see right away, that spanking might get their child to stop doing what they are doing in the moment," said Catherine Taylor, associate professor of global community health and behavioral sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine in New Orleans.

"Even if children don't act on their bad feelings immediately, nobody is happy to be hit," said Taylor, who was not involved in the study. "The parent is inadvertently teaching the child that hitting, or being aggressive, is a way to solve problems."

Spanking by fathers did not appear to have an effect on later behavior. However, it did have an effect on a child's language skills by age 9, the researchers found.

Children whose fathers spanked them frequently at age 5 were much more likely to score poorly on tests that judged their receptive vocabulary, which is the ability to recognize and understand words upon hearing or reading them.

This second finding "suggests that when parents—in this case fathers—hit children for disciplinary purposes, it has long-term effects on children's receptive verbal capacity," Taylor said.

"This, of course, has implications for children's academic performance and general success in life," she said.

Researchers have a much better idea of why spanking influences aggression than why it influences learning ability, MacKenzie said.

Families who spank may be less likely to read to their kids or guide their language development. The stress children feel as a result of spanking also might play a part. "We know that kids who are physically abused have problems," he said.

By assessing aggression and vocabulary at age 3, the study also tested the argument that some kids are just poorly behaved and therefore receive more spankings. They found that the delayed behavioral and cognitive effects of frequent spankings at age 5 by mothers and fathers remained firm regardless of how poor the child's early behavior was.

"It doesn't wash out the effect," MacKenzie said. "It's still there."

Although the research showed an apparent association between spanking and a 's behavior and learning abilities, it did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship.


Explore further

Physical punishment in childhood tied to health woes as adults

More information: For more information on child discipline, visit the Nemours Foundation.
Journal information: Pediatrics

Copyright © 2013 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Citation: Kids still spanked, to their detriment, study finds (2013, October 21) retrieved 15 June 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2013-10-kids-spanked-detriment.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 21, 2013
a very small bit of truth in this whole article: Although the research showed an apparent association between spanking and a child's behavior and learning abilities, it did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

Progressives love the words can and should and possibly that way they are not out right lying... problem is, they then use these nebulous studies to make detrimental polices..which can be summed up as.... "If we can save just one child..... we are willing to sacrifice many."

Oct 22, 2013
I prefer psychological warfare rather than spanking anyways, seems to work better.

I've made my kid sit at the front window watching all his neighborhood friends having fun out in the street and asked him why I made him sit there about every 10 minutes. About an hour later, he learned his lesson and hadn't done it since.

Next time my daughter wakes us up in the middle of the night because she's afraid of the dark, I'm considering locking her in the closet for an hour or so and tell her to be silent or the monsters will get her. If she makes too much noise, I'll make a growling noise with an old baby monitor. Then we'll see if she makes a peep at night anymore.

Oct 22, 2013
@DS: are you REALLY sure that a 'one size fits all' approach is psychologically sound?! I can understand the value of using psychology to bring home a lesson of consequences when there has been deliberate misbehaviour on the part of another. By contrast, a fear may be irrational, but it is NOT misbehaviour! To deal with a fear by creating an even bigger one...that's abusive...& not a joking matter. Not only do you severely run the risk of creating trust issues (as a parent, you are supposed to be the 'protector', not the source of unwarranted threats), but may also find that you set up further issues with insecurities. Trust is just one of those. Not to mention that you can re-enforce fears that way, even to the point of creating phobias. You really want to teach her not to fear the dark?Get her a nightlight for starters. That makes it less dark. Then make it a habit to make her feel safe, even in the gloom. She WILL grow out of it, if she is allowed to gain confidence. Regards,DH66

Oct 22, 2013
"Next time my daughter wakes us up in the middle of the night because she's afraid of the dark, I'm considering locking her in the closet for an hour or so and tell her to be silent or the monsters will get her. If she makes too much noise, I'll make a growling noise with an old baby monitor. Then we'll see if she makes a peep at night anymore."

I hope you're kidding, otherwise I would call Child Protective Services to investigate your home.

Oct 22, 2013
When my kids came up to me and said they were scared of monsters, I didn't tell them there were no monsters, instead I made a game where we would look for monsters in the house, we would jump on them, and eat them.

Next time they said they were scared of monsters.... I asked them, why are you scared of something you chase and eat? It worked..... no monsters in my house, nor kids waking up scared of monsters....

Oct 22, 2013
@DS Everything to you seems to be about getting them to conform regardless of the issue. Sitting your kid at a window to watch what he's missing initially seemed like a pretty good idea, but given your absurd reaction to your daughter's fears, I'm wondering how serious his transgression was?
Btw when my daughter was terrified of the Basilisk I went into her room before she went to sleep and crawled under the bed and yelled at the creature to, "Get out! And don't come back!" I banged on the walls a few times and generally made a lot of noise, and after a couple of efforts, the problem disappeared.

Oct 22, 2013
BTW, monsters generally taste like chocolate, jelly beans, cake, vanilla ice cream.

No magic charms, no strange ceremonies, just a game or two of chasing and eating monster's ended any fear of them, I never demeaned my kids fear of them, just redirected their fear into tasty food which empowered my kids to control their own fears.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more