Spanking children 'does more harm than good' and leads to mental health problems and worse behaviour (?)

Elizabeth Gershoff has been plowing this field for a long time so there was never any doubt about what conclusion she would come to.  Meta-analyses are notoriously easy to fudge.  You find some reason not to include studies with inconvenient conclusions.  I have seen as many as a hundred "inconvenient" studies left out of a meta-analysis.  So there is no substitute for one good study.

The big fault in all the studies I have seen is that they treat children as one homogeneous blob. That different children might need different treatment seems to be a novel idea.  But it comports with the way Leftists think.  They can consider people in big groups only (Jews, blacks, women etc.).  Attention to the individual is too hard.

But it is perfectly reasonable to expect that some children may need a firmer hand than others.  An aggressive or over-active child may benefit from spanking whereas a quieter child might be traumatized by it.  Until such differences are taken into account no findings in this field are worthwhile or worth heeding.

I might note that my father never touched me and I have never touched my son.  But we are bright.  I have seem dimmer childen who are poorly influenced by words and who would therefore need something more.  So control for both intelligence and temperament would be needed if meaningful research into the subject is to be done.

Journal abstract follows the article below

It was a long held belief that smacking a naughty child was a parent's prerogative to keep them in line and teach them right from wrong.

But now half a century of research has found the now controversial past time actually does more harm than good.

The more children are physically chastised, the more likely they are to defy their parents, scientists have found.

They are also more prone to mental health problems, aggressive outbursts, cognitive difficulties and anti-social behaviour, according to the study.

Spanking - or corporal punishment - is usually defined as hitting a child with an open hand without causing physical injury.

Professors Elizabeth Gershoff, from the University of Texas at Austin and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, at the University of Michigan analysed 50 years of research involving more than 160,000 children.

They found children who were smacked as five-year-olds were slightly more likely to be aggressive and break rules later in primary school.

'The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children,' said Professor Grogan-Kaylor.

'Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.'

Despite mounting evidence on the harms tied to it, it is 'still a very typical experience' for children, studies have found.

They looked at the association between spanking and 17 potential detrimental outcomes and found a significant link between the punishment and 13 of them.

'We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviours,' said Professor Gershoff.

'Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.

'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.'

They found the practice was associated with poor outcomes across a wide range of studies of the five decades.

Children misbehaved more and were more aggressive when they had been smacked by their parents, they found.

Those who are spanked were more prone to act out and could be more distracted in the classroom, they found.

The researchers also investigated cases of adults who were spanked as children and found the more they were smacked, the more likely they were to experience mental health problems.

They were also more likely to smack their own children - perpetuating the negative cycle.

In the UK, current laws allow 'reasonable chastisement' to control a child, but parents can be prosecuted if their actions result in injuries such as bruises, cuts or scratches.

Debate was recently ignited over the subject in the US when presidential hopeful Ted Cruz suggested voters would deliver a spanking to Hillary Clinton for allegedly being dishonest– just like he does to his five-year-old daughter when she lies.

His comments reignited the old debate on whether it is reasonable to smack a child.

And recently, in Canada, following a call by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to prohibit spanking, the Liberal government has promised to abolish a parent's right to physically discipline children.

Along similar legal lines, in June 2015, the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that the state was justified in denying foster parenting privileges to a couple who supported spanking or paddling children.


Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses.

Gershoff, Elizabeth T. & Grogan-Kaylor, Andrew


Whether spanking is helpful or harmful to children continues to be the source of considerable debate among both researchers and the public. This article addresses 2 persistent issues, namely whether effect sizes for spanking are distinct from those for physical abuse, and whether effect sizes for spanking are robust to study design differences. Meta-analyses focused specifically on spanking were conducted on a total of 111 unique effect sizes representing 160,927 children. Thirteen of 17 mean effect sizes were significantly different from zero and all indicated a link between spanking and increased risk for detrimental child outcomes. Effect sizes did not substantially differ between spanking and physical abuse or by study design characteristics. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

Journal of Family Psychology, Apr 7 , 2016

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