Jump to:  A   |   B   |   C   |   D   |   E   |   F   |   G   |   H   |   I   |   J   |   K   |   L   |   M   |   N   |   O   |   P   |   Q   |   R   |   S   |   T   |   U   |   V   |   W   |   X   |   Y

Kids Still Spanked, to Their Detriment, Study Finds

MONDAY, Oct. 21 (HealthDay News) -- 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 age 3 or 5 are much more likely to break rules and act aggressively than children 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 spanking to aggression and behavior problems.

A study published in March found that spanking kids who have a genetic predisposition to aggressive behavior 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 physical punishment 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 cognitive development 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 child's behavior and learning abilities, it did not necessarily prove a cause-and-effect relationship.

More information

For more information on child discipline, visit the Nemours Foundation.

SOURCES: Michael MacKenzie, Ph.D., associate professor, Columbia University School of Social Work, New York City; Catherine Taylor, associate professor, global community health and behavioral sciences, Tulane University School of Public Health & Tropical Medicine, New Orleans; November 2013, Pediatrics

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Health Tips
Baby’s Emotional, Intellectual Development
Boost Your Teen Daughter’s Body Image
Cool Tools to Keep Your Kids From Smoking
Could Your Child Have a Drug Problem?
Do Parents Influence Their Kids’ Health Behaviors?
For Kids, Games Can Build Strong Minds
Growing Up Short or Heavy Can Be Difficult
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Helping Children Conquer Fear
How Old Is 'Old Enough' for Contacts?
How to Prevent Childhood Obesity
How to Talk About Drugs With Your Kids
Is It Time for Toilet Training?
Is Your Child Too Sick for Day Care or School?
Keeping Your Cool When Parenting Teens
Kids' Health Concerns Ease with Age
Letting Kids Grow Up…At Their Own Pace
Making Rules for Children Reinforces Love
Making This School Year Your Child's Best Ever
New Parents...Sore Backs
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Paying for Attention: Abuse of Prescription ADHD Drugs Rising on College Campuses
Preparing Your Daughter for Changes
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Solving Battles at Mealtime
Sports and Music: Both Good for Kids
Talk With Your Kids About These Issues
Talking Sex with Your Teen
Teens and Talk: What's a Parent to Do?
TV vs. Activity: Key Choice for Kids
We Can Head Off Teen Tragedies
Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids
What Kids Drink Is Important, Too
When Children Say 'No' to New Foods
When to Call the Doctor for Childhood Illnesses
When Your Child Says, 'I'm Sick'
Your Child's Imaginary Friend…What It Means
Your Child's Social and Emotional Development
Child Development Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
AIDS/HIV in Children
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma and Children
Asthma in Children Index
Bicycle, In-Line Skating, Skateboarding Safety--Injury Statistics and Incidence Rates
Bipolar Disorder in Children
Bone Marrow Transplantation in Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Diphtheria in Children
During an Asthma Attack
Ewing Sarcoma
Hepatitis B (HBV) in Children
Inflammatory and Infectious Musculoskeletal Disorders
Inflammatory and Infectious Neurological Disorders
Inguinal Hernia in Children
Insect Bites and Children
Kidney Transplantation in Children
Meningitis in Children
Mood Disorders in Children and Adolescents
Muscular Dystrophy
Myasthenia Gravis in Children
Osteosarcoma in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Poliomyelitis (Polio) in Children
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries Overview
Television and Children
The Growing Child: 1 to 3 Months
The Growing Child: 10 to 12 Months
The Growing Child: 1-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 2-Year-Olds
The Growing Child: 4 to 6 Months
The Growing Child: 7 to 9 Months
The Growing Child: Newborn
The Growing Child: Preschool (4 to 5 Years)
The Growing Child: School-Age (6 to 12 Years)
The Heart
The Kidneys
Vision Overview
Whooping Cough (Pertussis)

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.