Why parents should never spank children

Why parents should never spank children
There is no research evidence that spanking improves child behaviour. On the contrary, spanking is associated with aggression, antisocial behaviour, mental health problems and negative relationships with parents. Credit: The Conversation

Spanking —usually defined as hitting a child on the buttocks with an open hand —is a common form of discipline still used on children worldwide. However, to date, spanking has been banned in 53 countries and states globally.

The use of has been hotly debated over the last several decades. Supporters state that it is safe, necessary and effective; opponents argue that spanking is harmful to and violates their human rights to protection.

As two scholars with extensive research experience and clinical insight in the field of child maltreatment, and with specific expertise related to spanking, we would like to move beyond this debate.

The research clearly shows that spanking is related to an increased likelihood of many poor health, social and developmental outcomes. These poor outcomes include mental health problems, substance use, suicide attempts and physical health conditions along with developmental, behavioural, social and cognitive problems. Equally important, there are no research studies showing that spanking is beneficial for children.

Those who say spanking is safe for a child if done in a specific way are, it would seem, simply expressing opinions. And these opinions are not supported by .

The evidence on spanking

There have now been hundreds of high-quality spanking research studies with a wide variety of samples and study designs. Over time, the quality of this research has improved to include better spanking measures and more sophisticated research designs and statistical methods.

The scientific evidence from these studies has consistently shown that spanking is related to harmful outcomes for children.

This has been best demonstrated in two landmark meta-analyses led by Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff. The first paper, published in 2002, reviewed and analyzed 88 studies published in the 62 years prior and found that physical punishment was associated with physical abuse, delinquency and antisocial behaviour.

An updated meta-analysis was most recently published in 2016. This reviewed and analyzed 75 studies from the previous 13 years, concluding that there was no evidence that spanking improved child behaviour and that spanking was associated with an increased risk of 13 detrimental outcomes. These include aggression, , and negative relationships with parents.

We now have data that clearly demonstrates that spanking is not safe, nor effective. Of course this does not make parents who have used spanking bad parents. In the past, we simply did not know the risks.

Towards positive parenting strategies

Evidence from over 20 years of research consistently indicates the harms of spanking. There is also increasing global recognition of the rights of children to protection and dignity, as inscribed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and in targets within the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to eliminate violence. Taken together, these tell us that spanking should never be used on children or adolescents of any age.

It is important, now, to find ways to help parents use positive and non-physical strategies with their children. Research already shows some evidence that parenting programs specifically aimed at preventing physical punishment can be successful.

Some for reducing harsh parenting and has been found for Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT), the Incredible Years (IY) program and the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP). Other promising home visiting initiatives and interventions taking place in community and paediatric settings are also being examined for proven effectiveness.

As researchers, we also need to reframe the research we are conducting, the questions we are asking and the discussions we are having —to move this field forwards and to ensure the safety and well-being of children. The academic journal Child Abuse & Neglect has published a special issue, containing original research and discussion papers containing further strategies. It is free to all readers for a limited time.


Explore further

Risks of harm from spanking confirmed by analysis of five decades of research

Journal information: Child Abuse & Neglect

Provided by The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.The Conversation

Citation: Why parents should never spank children (2017, October 30) retrieved 15 September 2019 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2017-10-parents-spank-children.html
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Oct 30, 2017
The world limits a young child's behaviour with pain and they are hurt by the world when they fall, jam fingers, bit on something hard and so on. Adding to that with parental training in the pre-lingual stage is seen as the child as purely natural, the rest of the world is guiding them in this way so why not the parents?

But it is a last resort and can be abused, can be aggressive, can be a means to assert power or torture or be used in other inappropriate ways. The law needs to discriminate between responsible discipline and child abuse but it shouldn't criminalise normal behaviour nor place all parents in the same basket with the abusers, the irresponsible and the child abusers...

Oct 30, 2017
I am not a proponent of spanking BUT have to admit that up until the age of 3 to 4 I did use a smack on the clothed buttocks to snap my child out of a temper tantrum. He would get into this rage and a quick smack on the backside would make him stop and take a different view on his behaviour. Once they were "conversant" I could use verbal advice to affect the change without a smack. I did not consider that a "spanking" but a single smack to change a mindset. As they got older, I would make them "stand in the corner" for a length of time. I found that technique worked very well.

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