Far from disciplining children, spanking can in fact have far-reaching, detrimental effects on their behaviour, cognitive abilities and mental health.
This is what a new study by the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan has found from analysing 50 years of research on spanking.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, analysed five decades of research involving over 160,000 children – the most in-depth research to date on the subject.
Researchers tested for the long-term effects among adults who were spanked as children and found they were more likely to experience mental health problems, engage in anti-social behaviour and to exhibit physical punishment towards their own kids.
“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,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin.
“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.
“We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline.”
What do you think of the research mums? Are you surprised? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this.