Spanking Linked to Aggression in Children According to New Study
Spanking Linked to Aggression and Lower Vocabulary Skills
A recent study published by the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that spanking is linked to aggression in children. The objective of the research was to assess if there was any correlation between spanking and the child’s behavior and vocabulary until they are nine years old.
Two different age groups were used, three and five years of age, and the results indicated, “Maternal spanking at age five, even at low levels, was associated with higher levels of child externalizing behavior at age nine, even after an array of risks and earlier child behavior were controlled for.”
Not only did spanking contribute to the children “acting out” more often, but it also impacted the child’s vocabulary scores later in life. Children at the age of nine had lower receptive vocabulary scores when they were being spanked at a “high-frequency” when they were five.
The researchers concluded that spanking created more problems than it solved. Children might behave better in the short term but as time goes on they will begin to show more signs of aggression than if they were simply reasoned with.
Elizabeth Gershoff, from the University of Texas at Austin, stated, “There’s just no evidence that spanking is good for kids.” She continued by saying, “When (children) want another kid’s toy, the parents haven’t taught them how to use their words or how to negotiate.”
Mothers were more likely to spank their children than the father in this study, 52% of mothers and 33% of fathers reported that they spanked their five year old child. The link to aggression was only established in the children aged five but not in the children who were only three years old.
There was a two point increase on a scale out of 70 measuring problem behavior when the mother spanked the child at least two times per week. In the vocabulary portion of the study the standard score was out of 100 points. Nine year old children who were spanked by their mothers only achieved a score of 93.
Immediate compliance doesn’t necessarily mean that the child is learning how to behave more appropriately. The effects of spanking are greater as the number of times the child is spanked increases. Cognitive and behavioral development were both affected in this study and this gets worse for children who are spanked more thank two times per week.
“Spanking models aggression as a way of solving problems, that you can hit people and get what you want,” said Gershoff. When the child is spanked because they are acting in a manner that the parent considers to be “bad”, then there is more of a chance that the child will use aggression to get their way as they become an adult. They get physically disciplined when they don’t give the parent what they demanded, so they associate violence as a means to get their way.
So what are parents supposed to do with an unruly child? “We know that spanking doesn’t work, we know that yelling doesn’t work…Timeout is kind of a mixed bag. We know that reasoning does work,” said Gershoff. She also stated that there is more evidence showing which methods don’t work than there is of methods that do work in the long-run.
Reasoning works better than yelling or spanking, but this can also take more time and patience which can be difficult when the child is misbehaving. The author of the study, MacKenzie, stated that spanking still seems to be an effective way to discipline children in the eyes of the parent which can lead them to believe that it is working. “The techniques that are designed to promote positive behaviors … oftentimes take more effort and time to put into place,” MacKenzie said.
Many people have been spanked when they were a child, including me. This method is familiar to us and it is how a lot of people were disciplined by their parents for misbehaving. Some people think that spanking should be a bigger issue than it is, but others disagree and feel they turned out just fine so they will continue to do so.
What are your thoughts? Could something as simple as spanking lead to more violent behavior in adulthood? Do you consider spanking to be a form of physical abuse or is that going too far? As adults we have to use our words to solve disputes and disagreements, so why should physical actions be required to teach our children what is acceptable?