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Bullying — Can Spanking Cause It?

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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