Getting a smack across the back of my legs as I ran up the stairs was part and parcel of my 80s childhood. 

 

Growing up and chatting to friends, it seemed that most of us had experienced the same parenting methods when it came to discipline. 

 

I was part of the 'it did me no harm' brigade and understood that fear-based parenting was a huge part of my life and that of my peers growing up. 

 

Part of me felt like it must have worked as I turned out reasonably well-balanced. 

 

But new research has turned this concept completely on its head. (The smacking part, not my well-balanced personality part) 

 

A FIVE decade-long study examined all aspects of using physical slapping as a parenting tool and the results will give you pause for thought. 

 

Naturally, this is not just a topic that is very contentious for parents, it is also very difficult to measure in terms of getting physical data. 

 

Most people's opinions on slapping are unmovable and there have been so many conflicting studies on the issue - the problem of analysing what is physical punishment? Where do we draw the line between what constitutes a slap - for some, it is a quick and controlled tap on the hand, for others is it a beating with a hand. 

 

For the purpose of this massive study by the University of Texas - the spanking was defined as what most people would recognise as slapping and not on potentially abusive behaviour. 

 

Dr Elizabeth Gershoff who lead the study said it was defined as an "open-handed slap to the buttocks or limbs."

 

The study which examined over 160 thousand children and parents over 50 years concluded that it is a very ineffective way to get children to follow their parent's wishes. 

 

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

 

As for the 'it did me no harm' aspect - Gershoff said the data disagreed. She found that those who were smacked as a child were more likely to suffer mental health problems or behave in anti-social ways. 

 

But don't despair if you give your child the odd slap. We know how hard it is to remain calm sometimes and we have all been pushed to the edge.

 

A UNICEF report found that 80% of parents around the world slap their children and the negative outcomes are based on frequency. The more often they are spanked the more likely to experience those negative effects in later life. 

 

Ireland banned slapping two years ago but there was a major backlash when the proposal to introduce it to New Zealand with opponents claiming that  "no proper research shows that a slap by a loving parent breeds violence."

 

You can read the study in full here

 

What's your opinion on the issue? 

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