Thursday, April 15, 2010

New research on spanking

There’s no denying that parents see immediate results when they administer a swift whack on the bottom to a misbehaving child. But a growing body of research suggests that in the long term children who are spanked are likely to become more aggressive and exhibit lower cognitive abilities than children whose parents use alternatives to corporal punishment as they discipline – and teach and talk with -- their children.

A recent Tulane University study of almost 2,500 children, found that even when controlling for children’s level of aggression at age 3 and other confounding factors, those who were spanked more frequently (more than twice in the previous month) were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. Go here for an abstract of the study, which was published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.

I wish we could all find ways to share this information with other parents in our life. Disciplining without spanking can feel like a long, frustrating process sometimes – but the payoffs are big.

Here are a few excerpts from a Time article reviewing the Tulane research:

“Now researchers at Tulane University provide the strongest evidence yet against the use of spanking: of the nearly 2,500 youngsters in the study, those who were spanked more frequently at age 3 were more likely to be aggressive by age 5. The research supports earlier work on the pitfalls of corporal punishment, including a study by Duke University researchers that revealed that infants who were spanked at 12 months scored lower on cognitive tests at age 3.”

“ ‘The odds of a child being more aggressive at age 5 if he had been spanked more than twice in the month before the study began increased by 50%,' says Taylor. And because her group also accounted for varying levels of natural aggression in children, the researchers are confident that 'it's not just that children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked.’ ”

“Compared with children who were not hit, those who were spanked were more likely to be defiant, demand immediate satisfaction of their wants and needs, get frustrated easily, have temper tantrums and lash out physically against others.

The reason for that, says Singer, may be that spanking instills fear rather than understanding. Even if a child were to stop his screaming tantrum when spanked, that doesn't mean he understands why he shouldn't be acting out in the first place. What's more, spanking models aggressive behavior as a solution to problems.”

“Spanking may stop a child from misbehaving in the short term, but it becomes less and less effective with repeated use, according to the AAP; it also makes discipline more difficult as the child gets older and outgrows spanking. As the latest study shows, investing the time early on to teach a child why his behavior is wrong may translate to a more self-aware and in-control youngster in the long run.”

Any thoughts from you seasoned parents out there?

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