Visit Our Coronavirus (COVID-19)  Resource Section ⇒ X
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

More Evidence Spanking Kids Doesn't Work, Can Cause Harm

More Evidence Spanking Kids Doesn't Work, Can Cause Harm

WEDNESDAY, June 30, 2021 (HealthDay News) -- Is spanking good for parents? Is spanking good for kids? Is spanking good for anyone? No, no and no, according to a big new review of prior research.

"Zero studies found that physical punishment predicted better child behavior over time," said study co-author Elizabeth Gershoff, a professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin.

She and her team sifted through the findings of 61 U.S. studies and eight international investigations. All examined how childhood behavior changed -- for better or for worse -- after children were exposed to physical punishment of some sort, including spanking.

"We reviewed all studies of physical punishment that looked at children's behavior at two or more points in time," explained Gershoff.

"This allowed us to determine if physical punishment predicted changes in children's behavior. If physical punishment was effective, we would see improvements in children's behavior over time. Unfortunately, we found the opposite," she said.

"We found that physical punishment increases child aggression and other behavior problems over time," Gershoff said. "It does not improve children's attention, cognitive [thinking] abilities, social relationships or social skills."

The study team members said their conclusion held up regardless of a child's sex, race or ethnicity, and whether or not a caregiver also engaged in more positive parenting behaviors. The team also concluded that more was worse: The more often a child is exposed to physical punishment, the greater the negative impact on their behavior and psyche.

The findings are clear, said Gershoff: "Physical punishment is harmful to children's development and well-being. There is no evidence that it has any positive outcomes whatsoever."

Many countries have already come to that conclusion. Sixty-two countries have banned the practice outright, in line with an advisory issued by the United Nations, according to the study authors.

Still, in many corners of the world, such behavior is commonplace. In the United States, it is legal for parents to punish their children physically in all 50 states, the authors said. And corporal punishment in schools remains legal across 19 states.

The study team also points out that globally 63% of all children between ages 2 and 4 -- roughly 250 million kids -- are routinely exposed to physical punishment by their caregivers.

But the review found that children are not the only victims in this dynamic. Caregivers who inflict physical punishment on children may see their own behavior deteriorate over time, as their physical interventions escalate and they become increasingly violent, the researchers said.

"The term 'discipline' comes from a Latin word meaning 'to teach,'" Gershoff said. "As parents, we have the important job of teaching children about the world, including guiding them to choose behaviors that do not harm others.

"Punishments of any kind do not on their own teach children how we want them to behave; that job requires the harder work of talking with children to explain what behaviors we expect of them and why," she added.

Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician specializing in child abuse, seconded those thoughts. He was not part of the study review.

"The most important relationship in our lives is typically between parent and child. And spanking introduces violence and fear into that relationship, where it's not called for and doesn't belong," said Sege, who is affiliated with Tufts Children's Hospital in Boston. He is also a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"Spanking is also ineffective. Numerous studies have shown that it doesn't really work," Sege added. Instead of promoting self-control, "spanking promotes children thinking how to avoid getting spanked," he said.

The pediatricians' group advises parents to talk to pediatricians about how to use effective discipline with their children, said Sege. "We advise parents not to spank their children, and not to belittle them verbally," he added.

The findings are in the June 28 issue of The Lancet.

More information

There's more on spanking at the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children.

SOURCES: Elizabeth T. Gershoff, PhD, professor, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, College of Natural Sciences, and director, Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin; Robert Sege, MD, PhD, pediatrician, Tufts Children's Hospital, Boston, and spokesperson, American Academy of Pediatrics; The Lancet, June 28, 2021

Reviewed Date: --

Find a pediatrician
Health Tips
Abuse of Prescription ADHD Medicines Rising on College Campuses
Guidelines for Raising Smoke-Free Kids
Help Your Babysitter Prepare for Anything
Helping Kids Get Over their Fears
Is It Time for Toilet Training?
Parenting Déjà vu: Raising Your Grandchildren
Parents-to-Be Must Communicate
Reading to Kids Helps Their Development
Sports and Music: Both Good for Kids
Talking About Sex with Your Teen
Talking With Your Kids About Drugs, Alcohol, and Tobacco
Weight Room No Longer Off-Limits to Kids
When Can a Child Wear Contact Lenses
Quizzes
Child Development Quiz
Diseases & Conditions
Anatomy of a Child's Brain
Anatomy of the Endocrine System in Children
Anxiety Disorders in Children
Asthma in Children Index
Becker Muscular Dystrophy (BMD) in Children
Bone Marrow Transplant for Children
Brain Tumors in Children
Chemotherapy for Children: Side Effects
Choosing Child Care for Your Breastfed Infant
Discipline
Ewing Sarcoma in Children
Firearms
Hepatitis B Virus (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
Myasthenia Gravis (MG) in Children
Normal Newborn Behaviors and Activities
Osteosarcoma (Osteogenic Sarcoma) in Children
Pediatric Blood Disorders
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in Children
Preparing the School-Aged Child for Surgery
Schizophrenia in Children
School-Aged Child Nutrition
Sports Safety for Children
Superficial Injuries of the Face and Head- Overview
Television and Children
Thalassemia
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
Your Child's Asthma
Your Child's Asthma: Flare-ups

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.