When I was a kid, spanking was the norm. I remember getting spanked in public places in front of total strangers. While spanking was at one time considered an accepted form of discipline, this method of punishment has become quite controversial over the last several years. In fact, over 50 countries, including France, Sweden, South Africa, and Scotland have banned the form of corporal punishment.
There’s an insane amount of research that suggests spanking, slapping, and hitting can have a seriously negative impact on a child’s mental state and health, presenting cognitive challenges later on in life that could promote aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental issues.
Now a new study is suggesting that there may be another disturbing repercussion of spanking: dating violence.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston and published in The Journal of Pediatrics, found that children who are spanked are more likely to express violence toward future dating partners.
“This is just one study that joins a mountain of evidence that corporal punishment is harmful,” says Dr. Jeff Temple, professor at University of Texas Medical Branch and senior study author.
“The current study adds to this knowledge by showing that being physically punished as a child is linked to perpetrating dating violence as a teen and young adult,” Temple explained in a press release. “While we can’t say that spanking causes later violence, it follows that if a kid learns that physical punishment is a way to solve conflict, he/she may carry that over into conflicts with later intimate partners.”
Researchers questioned 700 individuals in their late teens and early twenties who had been part of an ongoing study since high school. Of the 700 participants, 19 percent reported perpetrating some form of dating violence. Of those, a whopping 69 percent claimed to have experienced corporal punishment as a child.
Despite the evidence that corporal punishment can be detrimental to the future of a child, there are no federal laws prohibiting it in the United States, which Temple finds shocking.
“Despite known harms of corporal punishment, spanking is still normative, legal, and common. We should do a better job of educating parents and legislators that: 1) it does not work in changing problem behavior, and 2) it is potentially harmful,” he tells Babble.
“Many people will say, ‘I was spanked, and I turned out just fine.’ That may be true, but some people were spanked and did not turn out fine (just as some people choose to not wear seat belts and are fine). We should not take the risk, especially when there are zero benefits to spanking.”
I have to agree with Temple, spanking isn’t a great way to discipline children and the potential risk outweighs any possible benefit.
“If you want to reduce the risk of future negative consequences for your child – be they behavioral, mental or physical consequences – don’t physically punish your children,” he concludes. “It does not work. It may cause harm. Better strategies – that do not cause harm – exist and are relatively easy to implement.”