Huge Study Reveals The Impact Of Spanking On Children

By Haider Ali in Health and Fitness On 17th December 2023

There is a great deal of disagreement over whether spanking is an appropriate method of parental discipline. 

However, a recent meta-analysis of fifty years of study indicates that there might be a significant cost for the parents as well as psychological effects on the kids.

It has been challenging to measure the effects of spanking because, in addition to the fact that many people approach the subject with fixed ideas, spanking is frequently combined with other physical punishments, and many studies fail to distinguish between these sufficiently to allow conclusions about spanking to be made on its own.

Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff of The University of Texas at Austin compiles research on the impact of spanking—which involved 160,927 kids in total—in the Journal of Family Psychology. 

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In a statement, Gershoff stated, "Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors." 

A smack to the buttocks or limbs with the open hand was the definition of spanking.

Gershoff came to the conclusion that 13 of the 17 negative outcomes they evaluated were associated with spanking.

Most remarkably, she discovered that it is a highly inefficient method of getting kids to do what their parents want.

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"We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents' intended outcomes when they discipline their children," Gershoff said.

Furthermore, the old-fashioned argument that "it never did me any harm" isn't very persuasive. 

Adults who experienced spanking as children were more likely to experience mental health issues and act in ways that are antisocial.

It is evident that spanking is not always harmful—unless you have a very pessimistic view of humanity—as UNICEF research revealed that in the majority of countries, over 70% of children had been spanked in the preceding month. 

However according to the research Gershoff gathered, how often a person spanks a child matters just as much as if it occurs at all.

A child's likelihood of displaying unfavorable impacts increased with the frequency of spankings.

Gershoff's connection of her research with physical abuse is the part that is most likely to cause people to disbelieve.

"We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors," she said. 

"Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree."

Even though the studies Gershoff cited date back to the 1960s, there is always resistance when spanking is compared to abuse, despite the fact that some psychologists contend the two are interchangeable.

In 1979, Sweden outlawed spanking; however, recent plans to implement a similar law in Canada have generated significant controversy.

Meanwhile, in New Zealand, legislation prohibiting smacking was met with opposition from a majority of over 88 percent in a non-binding referendum.

The opponents of the ban argued that "no decent research shows smack by a loving parent breeds violence."