No butts about it: spanking doesn’t work, scientists say.
“Zero studies found that physical punishment predicted better child behavior over time,” according to Elizabeth Gershoff, a University of Texas at Austin professor and recognized expert on corporal punishment in children. Her most recent work on the subject was published this week in The Lancet.
Gershoff’s team analyzed 61 US-based studies plus eight international reports to draw their firm conclusion, some of which included data on long-term behavioral development associated with parents who engage in corporal punishment.
The use of force in childcare has seen a steep decline in American households during the most recent generations. Research shows that just 37% of kids today endure spanking and other forms of violent discipline, according to a recent study, based on data from a 2014 telephone survey of families.
Though publicly frowned upon, the practice remains legal here in the US within the home and is allowed in schools in 19 states. Meanwhile, 62 other countries around the world have banned it in any setting.
More precisely, less than half of children aged 0 to nine are subject to physical punishment; the rate drops to under a quarter for youth aged 10 to 17. Further studies have shown a decline in spanking by up to 40% in kindergarten-aged children.
“If physical punishment was effective, we would see improvements in children’s behavior over time. Unfortunately, we found the opposite,” Gershoff explained in their statement to HealthDay.
“Physical punishment increases child aggression and other behavior problems over time,” she continued. “It does not improve children’s attention, cognitive [thinking] abilities, social relationships or social skills.”
More is more, they also concluded. The more kids were punished, the more likely they were to suffer behavioral and psychological complications later in life.
Researchers said the findings were consistent across gender and ethnic groups, and regardless of whether the parent or guardian exhibited otherwise “positive” parenting tactics. And, perhaps more notably, the study also revealed that parents, too, had suffered at their own hand — and showed increasingly violent and erratic behavior over time.
The jury is in on spanking. Gershoff’s verdict: “There is no evidence that [physical punishment] has any positive outcomes whatsoever.”
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