Every time I speak about the physical punishment of children, I say that the research is in. Today I want to take a look at the research which clearly states that hitting kids carries with it some clear and definable risk factors. Today I have a quick overview of the relevant research and a link for those who want more detail.
Spanking: What does the research say?
Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas has studied 75 studies, over 50 years from 13 different countries. What she found was that spanking does not make children more compliant, is not linked with reductions in aggression or anti-social behaviour and not linked with internalization of morals.
Instead is it linked with worse, not better behaviour. In the meta-analyses spanking is associated with more aggression and antisocial behaviour.
None of the studies showed a link between spanking and better behaviour.
And there are unintended outcomes such as mental health problems, difficult relationships with parents, lower self-esteem and lower academic performance.
“The question of whether parents should spank their children to correct misbehaviors sits at a nexus of arguments from ethical, religious, and human-rights perspectives,” write Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin, and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor of the University of Michigan, in the study.
The researchers raised concerns that previous meta-analyses had defined physical punishment too broadly, including harsher and more abusive behaviors alongside spanking. So, for this meta-analysis, they defined spanking as “hitting a child on their buttocks or extremities using an open hand.”
They also worried that spanking was only linked to bad outcomes for kids in studies that weren’t methodologically outstanding. It’s hard to study real-world outcomes like this; there are only a few controlled experimental studies in which some mothers spanked their kids, and some didn’t, in a laboratory setting. Those were included in this analysis, along with cross-sectional and longitudinal studies, for a total of 75 studies, 39 of which hadn’t been looked at by any previous meta-analyses. Altogether, these studies included data from 160,927 children.
If you want more detail on the research just click here.
As the researchers concluded here, “there is no evidence that spanking does any good for children and all evidence points to the risk of it doing harm.”
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