Whenever I try to talk disciplining issues concerning my children with a certain family member whom I shall leave nameless, the discussion always ends in the same way:
“Well, if I was you, I would just beat that kid! Nothing a good spanking won’t fix!”
[Insert my deflated sigh here.]
Look, I get it. Back in “the day,” whatever the heck that means, the rod was not spared, nor were the behinds of pretty much all children. But these days, spanking isn’t exactly considered good parenting. And it really makes no sense when you think about it — your child hits another kid on the playground, so you smack him on the bottom to show him what’s right? Um, what? Who’s the grown-up here, again?
Luckily for all of us who never really understood the fascination with spanking in the first place, a groundbreaking new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology is about to change parenting once and for all. For the first time, it’s been confirmed that not only is spanking completely ineffective for curbing children’s unruly behavior, but it actually has the opposite effect in making children act out even more.
Or in other words, spanking doesn’t work.
“The more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems, and cognitive difficulties, according to a new meta-analysis of 50 years of research on spanking,” Science Daily concluded.
And this is not just some puny little study, guys. This is a combined total of 50 years of research. That’s huge. Over 50 years of research involving 160,000 children went into the study conducted through The University of Texas at Austin and The University of Michigan to come to the conclusion that spanking is pretty much the worst.
Not only does spanking not work in the way that us parents hope it will work, in getting a child to stop a certain behavior or start a desired behavior in the heat of the moment, but spanking is more likely to harm our children in the long run. And unfortunately, but not surprisingly, children who were spanked were also more likely to grow into adults who spanked, continuing the generational cycle of spanking.
The study made sure to specifically define spanking as the way most of us think about it — an open-handed simple swat on the butt or extremities (like an arm) here and there and not something that crossed the line into flat-out child abuse.
“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” explained Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin and the study’s lead author. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”
And even spanking, through the filtered lens that we all tend to see it as, was found to be harmful to children’s development.
“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,” the study’s co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, said in a press release.
The bottom line is that this study confirms what past studies have tried to tell us: spanking doesn’t work in the short-term and in the long-term, it actually hurts our children — socially, mentally, and developmentally — more than it helps them.
All in all, this study may be good news or bad news depending on how you look at it. And if you’ll excuse me, there’s a certain family member that I need to go deliver a good old-fashioned, “I told you so!” to.
Because I’m a grown-up, damn it.More On