Why you shouldn’t spank children: how spanking affects a child’s development
Spanking remains a controversial form of punishment. Some parents claim that this is completely normal and that a slap on the butt effectively teaches the child what is right and wrong. Experts explain that one of the obvious benefits of spanking is that it quickly grabs a child’s attention and can shock them into acting better.
While this form of punishment was once widespread, spanking has been controversial in recent decades. A lot of research has emerged that suggests that even light spanking — which is what slapping on the butt is called — can do children more harm than good. In fact, many experts oppose the use of this parenting method. MedAboutMe looks at the main implications of this approach to help you choose the right parenting strategy.
Problems in behavior and communication
Although soft spot slapping is intended to correct bad behavior, research has shown that it can lead to long-term behavioral and social problems, making it counterproductive.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at the impact of spanking on more than 160,000 children over a 50-year period. The researchers found that spanked children were more likely to have:
- Bad self-esteem.
- antisocial behavior.
- Aggressive behavior.
- Mental health problems.
- Impairment of cognitive abilities.
- Bad relationship with parents.
Children learn from the behavior of their parents. If they grow up believing that physical aggression such as spanking is an acceptable response when they are upset or in trouble. This means that they are likely to react to situations in a similar way, thereby continuing the line of aggressive behavior.
The impact of whipping can last for decades
Some parents feel that although spanking is frustrating for the child at the moment, in the long run he will forget everything, and this will benefit him. But some studies have shown that the negative effects of spanking can persist for decades after physical punishment.
A study conducted at the University of Missouri found that the effect can last for at least 10 years in children. Scientists studied the impact of spanking on children from 1840 families in several age periods — 15 months, 25 months and 10 years.
The study found that children who were spanked frequently and/or severely at 15 months of age were more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior 10 years later.
Interferes with the relationship between parents and children
No child likes to be punished, whether by spanking, positive reinforcement, or any other method. But while many parents believe that children will eventually realize the benefits and understand the consequences of bad behavior, this approach does not work with spanking. And studies confirm that the effect is the opposite.
Some research has shown that spanking interferes with future parent-child relationships: even light spanking interferes with this relationship as it promotes negative feelings, skills, and attitudes such as resentment, lying, mistrust, blame, avoidance of responsibility, and hurting yourself or others. .
Spanking can damage a child’s IQ
There is a growing body of research that suggests that spanking may hinder children’s cognitive development and ability.
For example, a 2009 study found that spanked children had, on average, lower IQs than non-spanked peers. In addition, adults who were subjected to corporal punishment as children «have reduced gray matter volume in the prefrontal cortex,» which plays an important role in the formation of emotional intelligence.
Spanking injury compared to abuse
Long-term use of spanking can have the same consequences for a person as abuse. For example, a Harvard University study published in the Journal of Pediatrics found that spanking can lead to the same negative consequences as other adverse childhood experiences, including:
- Abandonment of a child.
- Substance abuse in parents.
- Parents with mental health problems.
- Physical and emotional abuse.
Such traumatic experiences increase the risk of behavioral problems (such as aggressive behavior) in the same way as spanking. Thus, studies show that the impact of corporal punishment in the form of light slaps on the buttocks, hands, slaps or slaps “to attract attention” is similar to the impact of childhood abuse. The difference is only in the strength of manifestations.
Whipping won’t fix bad behavior
Perhaps the best argument against spanking is that it just doesn’t work. Not only do they lead to many consequences, such as aggressive behavior and difficult parent-child relationships, but, according to most experts, they do little to nothing to correct bad behavior (except that children learn to hide it).
What’s more, when physical punishment fails to correct bad behavior, some parents feel they need to put in more effort — including physical force — to get their child to comply. This creates a vicious and ineffective cycle in which the child is traumatized by more severe forms of corporal punishment and parents become increasingly frustrated with its ineffectiveness.
Recall that we are not talking about spanking with a belt, but about those rather light spankings that many parents consider completely innocent and not painful. To understand the problem, experts suggest trying this method on yourself: how would you change your attitude if your boss spanked you for flaws at work or your spouse for household chores?
Motivation to do something better “under duress” does not work well. So experts advise to stop using physical force and choose other methods of education. We talk about them in the article «Don’t spank: 15 ways to get your child to behave.»