Skip to Content

Spare the Rod, Spur Better Behavior?

THURSDAY, Nov. 16, 2017 -- Before you let your parental frustration get the better of you, a new study suggests you should refrain from spanking your misbehaving youngster.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 12,000 children in the United States and found that those who had been spanked by their parents at age 5 had more behavior problems at ages 6 and 8 than those who had never been spanked.

"Our findings suggest that spanking is not an effective technique and actually makes children's behavior worse, not better," said study author Elizabeth Gershoff, a psychological scientist at the University of Texas at Austin.

The increase in behavior problems among children who were spanked could not be explained by child or parent characteristics, or the home environment, according to the study published Nov. 16 in the journal Psychological Science.

"Parents spank for many reasons, such as their educational or cultural background, or how difficult their children's behavior is," Gershoff said in a journal news release.

"These same reasons, which we call selection factors, can also predict children's behavior problems, making it difficult to determine whether spanking is in fact the cause of behavior problems," she explained.

So the researchers used a special statistical model to further assess the link between spanking and increased risk of behavior problems.

"The fact that knowing whether a child had ever been spanked was enough to predict their levels of behavior problems years later was a bit surprising. It suggests that spanking at any frequency is potentially harmful to children," Gershoff said.

"Although dozens of studies have linked early spanking with later child behavior problems, this is the first to do so with a statistical method that approximates an experiment," she said.

But the study could not prove that spanking actually caused later behavior problems.

© 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

Posted: November 2017

Read this next

Losing a Sibling a Common Tragedy in Poorer Nations, Study Finds

TUESDAY, Oct. 27, 2020 -- The loss of a sibling is all too common among young women in low- and middle-income countries, according to a new study. The researchers found that...

Got Election Anxiety? Experts Have Coping Tips

TUESDAY, Oct. 27, 2020 -- It may be no surprise that this year's presidential election is taking a toll on the mental health of Americans. In a new Harris Poll survey, conducted...

AHA News: Study Highlights Heart-Health Issues for Adults Who Were Preemies

By Michael Merschel American Heart Association News MONDAY, Oct. 26, 2020 (American Heart Association News) -- Erin Wegener was a tiny baby facing enormous challenges. Born at...