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Bullying — Can Spanking Cause It?

By bethanysanders |

2238624743_1d1f33d72fSpanking is one of those issues that divides parents into groups — loud, opinionated groups who have a hard time understanding the other side’s viewpoint.

Spankers say that they never hit out of anger, than a planned and controlled slap is an appropriate punishment for a child’s trangression. Non-spankers say that violence begets violence and that there are other, less severe ways to teach children to listen.

The latest study on spanking scores one for the non-spankers.


Researchers at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans surveyed 2,500 mothers of three-year-olds on their spanking habits during the previous month, as well as their child’s level of aggression and several factors involving family life. About half of the moms said they didn’t spank, a quarter said they spanked infrequently, and 26.5 percent said they used spanking as a discipline tool more frequently.

Two years later, researchers discovered that the kids in that last group — or the most frequently spanked during the month in question — were 50 percent likely to exhibit aggressive behavior at age 5.

So maybe violence really does beget violence? Experts say that the study doesn’t not prove cause-and-effect, but that it’s the strongest study so far on spanking and aggression. There are two prevailing theories: 1) Children learn what they live, so spanked children learn to be more physically aggressive, and 2) Spanking causes higher levels of stress, which can have a negative effect on a child’s growth and development.

I’m not a spanker, nor was I ever spanked. But I’ve always believed that when it comes to spanking, parenting style plays a much larger part than the physical hitting itself. When kids are raised in an authoritative environment where their needs and feelings are met and respected, then they have less of a reason to act out. But in a strict environment where they are trained to behave out of fear of pain and violence, then, sure, that’s going to affect them later in life. But the results of this study stayed the same, even after controlling for those factors.

What do you think — does spanking put kids at risk of being future bullies?

Photo: HA! Designs, Flickr

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0 thoughts on “Bullying — Can Spanking Cause It?

  1. koalakat says:

    While I don’t plan on spanking my child, I’m not entirely convinced by this study. Perhaps the children two exhibit aggressive behavior at age five were also more likely to misbehave frequently as three-year-olds, and their mothers ended up resorting to spanking more often because of this. Maybe these kids simply had personalities that required more discipline from the others.

  2. Maureen says:

    I think the main problem I have with this article and study is that spanking is not properly defined. I was spanked as a child and it was awful and nothing compared to how I ‘spank’ my toddler. I don’t often have to spank him, but if he’s done something really bad (like run into the street after I’ve told him not to), I will smack him on the bottom with my hand and only once. My mom used to use belts, and it hurt, I will NEVER do that to my son.

    I think sometimes kids need more discipline than just a ‘time out.’ When I’m at the park with my son, I witness tons of kids with terrible behavior who need a swift smack on the butt along with their parents for putting up with it.

  3. Rosana says:

    I agree koalakat. I think it takes a certain degree of child abuse (neglet, etc) for a kid to become a bully.
    I do not spank because I was spank and it only made me bitter. I did not really learn anything by being spanked. However, I think that spanking depends more on the parent personality than the kid’s.

  4. Rosana says:

    By the way, that picture really disturbs me :(

  5. Melissa says:

    Different children have different needs. I agree with koalakat. I don’t like to spank my son and I only use it as a last resort, but sometimes he needs it. It’s one of the hardest things I have to do as a parent. I wasn’t spanked much as a child-only for severe transgressions-and I have no baggage over it. There are children out there who probably can be controlled with talking or a harsh look, but not mine. I also think that a lot of people who take pride in not spanking also end up losing control when their children misbehave and screaming, which is sometimes no better than spanking.

  6. Manjari says:

    It’s not just the latest study that scores one for non-spankers. Are there ANY recent studies that score one for spankers? I think hitting and using physical violence is wrong. I don’t hit adults, so why would I hit my kids? They are so much smaller and more helpless. That seems to me like REAL bullying.

  7. [...] children is a great parental divider.  But with recent research spotlighting the potential detrimental effects of spanking on children, I am heartened to learn that most parents have less-violent strategies for helping their children [...]

  8. Alicia says:

    I spank my son only for serious transgressions after I’ve talked to him and used a time out. He’s a highly independent kid that has streaks of extreme stubbornness, and sometimes he will only respond to a smack on his fully clothed bottom. I think it’s more embarrassing for him than painful. But I highly doubt that spanking automatically leads to bullying. In my opinion it’s parenting that has failed in some form that leads to bullies. A mom I know has a little girl who is very much a bully to my son, and she’s never punished aside from a verbal scolding. The little girl acts sorry, but turns around and does it again. Failed parenting leads to bullies, not spanking.

  9. [...] recent study from the University of Tulane in New Orleans suggested that three-year-olds disciplined with [...]

  10. [...] sides with the parents. She says that not only is spanking not okay, but research has shown that spanking increases aggression, bullying and lying in kids and instills fear rather than [...]

  11. [...] the evidence that spanking increases aggression and the efforts of some to outlaw it, it would seem that corporal punishment is alive and well in [...]

  12. Robert says:

    I don’t beleave that spanking increases aggression or lying or bulling those are the kids that need it age 6-16

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