New Study Suggests Spanking Your Child Leads to 'Bad Behaviors'

Research from the University of Texas, Austin and the University of Michigan suggests that spanking your child will lead to “bad behaviors.”

The research examined 75 studies over a 50-year period and included more than 150,000 children. The “bad behavior” doesn’t surface right away but results in long-term problems.

“This is a wide swath of children and the findings are incredibly consistent,” study author Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff told CBS News. “This shows there is a correlation between spanking and negative outcomes and absolutely no correlation between spanking and positive outcomes.”

Your spanked child is more likely to be aggressive and antisocial. “The irony is that many parents spank when their kids are aggressive. So the child thinks you can use spanking to get what you want — kids learn that,” she said.

More recent disciplinary techniques involve positive reinforcement, but Gershoff says many parents still spank their children. “There’s research showing that by the time most kids get to high school, at least 85 percent have been spanked. So, most kids are being spanked,” said Gershoff.

“To make ourselves feel better about it, we use spanking as a euphemism, but it’s still hitting. There’s no way to define spanking without using the word hitting,” said Gershoff.

The study focused on what most people would consider “spanking” as opposed to “abuse.”

They defined spanking as an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities, and reported that it was linked with 13 out of 17 outcomes — all negative — including defying parents, acting aggressive, and exhibiting mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.

Gershoff recommended parents use a variety of actions that focus on the positive. “It’s not one single technique. It’s a host of behaviors parents should do. They involve the relationship between a parent and child and rewarding the child when they do the right thing.”

If you think you might be a pushover parent unless you spank your child, Gershoff says, “You can be a firm parent with high expectations for children. You don’t have to hit them to show you have power.”

Dr. David Pollack, a pediatrician at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, explains that parents should model the behavior they want to see from their children. “Our society is becoming increasingly violent and angry; we should try to do everything possible to minimize that culture around our children,” he said.

What do you think: has spanking your child led to undesirable behavior?