Spanking Children Promotes Antisocial Behaviour and Slows Mental Development

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90% of studies on spanking agree that it’s bad for children.

A new book which includes research on over 7,000 US families plus data from 32 different countries, has found that spanking is ultimately detrimental to children.

The book, by Professor Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire and colleagues, finds that four decades of research is heavily against the use of spanking for children (Straus et al., 2013; The primordial violence: spanking children, psychological development, violence, and crime).

While it may work to correct their behaviour, it doesn’t have any advantages over other methods, and also has significant disadvantages.

Professor Straus explained:

“Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior. But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges. Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost.”

According to the research, more than 90% of the studies agree that spanking is not good for children.

The problem is that spanking children is associated with:

  • Poorer mental development.
  • Weaker emotional ties between parents and children.
  • Increased risk the child will hit other children
  • Increased risk the child will later hit their partner.

The authors of the book say there is probably no other area of childcare in which the research evidence is so clear.

Professor Straus added:

“More than 20 nations now prohibit spanking by parents. There is an emerging consensus that this is a fundamental human right for children. The United Nations is asking all nations to prohibit spanking. Never spanking will not only reduce the risk of delinquency and mental health problems, it also will bring to children the right to be free of physical attacks in the name of discipline, just as wives gained that human right a century and a quarter ago.”

→ Read on: 10 Current Psychology Studies Every Parent Should Know (you’ll recognise number 4)

Image credit: Lotus Carroll

About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 14 December 2013

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