Major Study Confirms That Spanking Causes Lasting Harm

Portrait of a crying son on hands a father

A new study from The University of Texas at Austin is not the first of its kind to warn of the lasting harm of spanking children, but it is one of the most comprehensive to date. The study analyzes fifty years of research involving 160,000 children and focuses specifically on spanking— not other types of potentially abusive corporal punishment—and confirms that, not only is spanking detrimental to children’s mental health and well-being, but it also produces the opposite of its desired effects.

“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,” says Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. Children who are spanked, the study says, are more likely to defy their parents, not less.

And despite anecdotal accounts, adults who were spanked as children are probably not “just fine.” The study also looked at the long-term effects of spanking, finding that adults who were spanked as children are more likely to exhibit anti-social behavior and to experience mental health problems.

If study after study confirms that spanking causes short and long-term harm, and is not an effective discipline tool, why is it still so pervasive? One possibility is the disconnect between spanking and physical abuse, but this study shows that both are associated with the same detrimental outcomes.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” Gershoff says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”

The researchers hope that this data, consist with other reports of its kind, will help encourage parents to choose positive and non-punitive discipline instead.

image via: Michael

9 thoughts on “Major Study Confirms That Spanking Causes Lasting Harm”

  1. Although spanking is still pretty common (I was surprised to learn the other day that my co-worker spanked her 1 1\2 year old, except that she called it ‘swatting’), I think it is fairly easy to see that it is not a very effective tool for discipline. I myself remember feeling really hurt emotionally by the way my parents used it without any further explanation. It’s really humiliating to go through and the outcome is that you become fearful of your parents, but it doesn’t help you to know how to choose more appropriate behaviors. I also think that it encourages children to solve problems with violence, since a child cannot discriminate between why the parent’s spankings are justified and why hitting your sister or classmate isn’t. Spanking is definitely part of a culture of violence and discourages trying to solve problems through communication. Let’s end spanking.

      1. I’d be interested to know how many parents of this study that soanknalso Scream and Yell and curse.
        Some of us spank but don’t scream. Although apanking is harsh is be inclined to believe most of these parents in the study use other negative tools like screaming and yelling or just being angry.
        I was spanked by a calm loving mother and I’m better for it. Not social problems. No fears. But I do have Respect and I follow laws and rules. Imagine that. A kid who cares about other and not just herself.

  2. “Major Study Confirms That Spanking Causes Lasting Harm”
    … and so does male circumcision (male genital mutilation). That’s well documented, but still parents in the US are putting their little boys through this horrible ordeal.

  3. I agree completely, Steinn. I would rather spank my child than put them through that. besides, people who dont spank their kids are just stupid pieces of bad words that i am not even going to say.

  4. Well, I guess I have mental health problems — because I was spanked. Not buying it!! I certainly learned to walk the line and stay out of trouble or else.

  5. Surely, spanking and beating child an be really harmful and it might backfire Parent’s idea of making their child disciplined. There is no denying the fact that Discipline is necessary but parents should look for some effective ways of making child disciplined. You can read more on the ways of disciplining children at:- Just Dakhila Blog. Google it to know more.

  6. I spank my kids… but when i do they get a clear outline of what they did wrong. Why it is so bad.. then i ask them why they did it.. and how are they going to fix it or not to do it again… spanking is only used if they have done somthing bad. Or being continously naughty.. only have to do it 3 times a year… you cant just use spanking you will most likely frustrate the kid

  7. I wouldn’t use spanking because I think the point of punishment is for the kid to learn a lesson. What lesson do you learn from being spanked? Basically that might makes right. I’m very much an eye-for-an-eye person, too, which means the punishment should fit the crime. For example, if you break that vase you replace it with your allowance.

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