The University of Texas at Austin
  • To spank or not to spank

    By Daniel Oppenheimer, College of Natural Sciences
    Published: March 22, 2011

    In 2002, Elizabeth Gershoff published the first-ever meta-analysis of research (PDF) on the effects of corporal punishment on children.

    Now an associate professor in the School of Human Ecology, Gershoff continues to delve into the impact of spanking (and other, more severe forms of physical punishment) on children. She also looks more broadly at the impacts of poverty, community violence and neighborhoods on child and youth development over time.

    Elizabeth Gershoff

    Is spanking still a common practice in the U.S.?

    Most parents still spank, but they do it a lot less frequently than their parents did. Most parents who do spank do it once a month or less, maybe only a couple of times a year. So the prevalence of spanking is still very high (i.e., most parents do it) but the incidence is not (i.e., they don’t do it very often).

    Is it still the case that the vast majority of children in the U.S. are spanked by their parents at some point?

    By the time American children reach middle and high school, 85 percent have been physically punished, either with a spanking or something harsher.

    Can you sum up what research has to tell us about the effects of spanking on children?

    There’s been a lot of research on spanking, going back all the way to the early 1900s, and almost all of it has showed that spanking is associated with negative outcomes for children. It is associated with more aggressive and anti-social behaviors in children. The more frequently or severely children are spanked or hit, the more likely they are to have symptoms of depression or anxiety, both at the time they’re punished and later. There is evidence to suggest that it erodes the connection between children and their parents, making children less likely to trust their parents. There’s even evidence that it is linked with lower child IQ scores.

    Several years ago, I published a research meta-analysis, which statistically summarized the outcomes associated with spanking across 89 studies. I found that the only positive outcome linked with corporal punishment was immediate compliance. The more children were spanked, the more they complied in that moment. Over the long term, however, and when their parents weren’t there, spanking did not increase compliance. Even just two weeks later, it didn’t seem to make a difference.

    So spanking isn’t good, even when it’s pretty rare?

    Right. It doesn’t increase the likelihood of outcomes parents want, but does increase the chance of ones they don’t.

    Is there a relationship between spanking and physical abuse? Are parents who spank more likely to escalate that to something more abusive?

    Yes, absolutely. There’s a very strong relationship between whether and how often parents spank their children and whether or not parents at some point physically abuse their children. There have been several studies on this issue, and they nearly all find that a majority of incidents of abuse — 60, 70, 80 percent — begin as some form of physical punishment.

    Most physical abuse, in other words, isn’t inflicted by sadistic parents who are indiscriminately abusing their children. Rather, most abuse begins with a parent wanting to “teach the child a lesson” but then escalates to the point of injury.

    That’s part of the argument for getting people to stop altogether, because if you never hit your child, then you won’t do it when you’re too angry to control yourself. When parents who have abused their children are in parenting classes, that’s what they teach them: “You can never hit your child.” Just take that out of your repertoire.

    Why are so many people still spanking? Aren’t people getting the message?

    A few years ago, there was an article on the CNN Web site that summarized some of my research findings, and right next to the article was a poll asking readers whether they thought spanking children is bad for them. Eighty-some percent said no. And that was right next to the article summarizing all the research saying that it was bad. I realized at that point that it was going to be harder than I had thought to change people’s beliefs about this, because the research goes against their own experience and their own beliefs so they just don’t believe it.

    That said, I think parents’ attitudes are changing, as we get more and more parenting experts who are out there saying we should try other things. Folks like Oprah and Bill Cosby have publicly discouraged people from spanking. There are so many more books and experts out there than even a generation ago. For a long time there was Dr. Spock and that was about it — and even he changed his mind. In the original edition of his book, Dr. Spock said it was OK for parents to spank, but in subsequent editions he changed dramatically and strongly discouraged parents from spanking. I think many American parents are similarly conflicted, but still resort to spanking their children once in a while.

    Why do you think it is that spanking seems to have such negative effects?

    To really answer that question, you would have to talk to children in depth about being spanked, and you’d have to follow them over a very long period of time, and for a variety of reasons it is hard research to do. So it is a great question, but one for which we don’t have a precise answer.

    One hypothesis is that when bad things (like spanking) happen to children it makes them more likely to attribute what we call “hostile intent” to other people. They begin to think that people in general are out to get them, to harm them. If you go through life expecting that kind of response then you’re much more likely to aggress, to preemptively protect yourself.

    There’s a social learning explanation which suggests that children are, in a sense, imitating their parents. They’re not spanking other people, of course, but they might be learning that if you hit someone else than you can get what you want. So when the parent hits the child and the child complies in order to get the hitting to stop, they’ve just seen that it works. They go on to imitate their parent by using aggression to get what they want.

    Another mechanism could be that children feel estranged from parents who hit them.

    There have been a handful of studies that have really talked to children about what it’s like to be hit, and almost always the children talk about how painful and scary it is. One result of that might be that children will be less likely to listen to their parents in the future. They may want to spend as little time at home as possible, and so the parents won’t have the opportunities to socialize them well.

    An additional problem is that parents who spank often may be doing less of the forms of discipline we know are good at teaching children how to behave. For example, if a parent hits their child rather than taking the time to reason and explain things to them, then the child may end up poorly behaved because she doesn’t understand what she’s supposed to be doing.

    What do you say to people who say, “My parents spanked me, and I turned out fine?”

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told that. People believe their parents loved them and did the right thing, so they don’t want to question that. They don’t want to feel like they’re rejecting their parents, or condemning their parents. What I tell people, in response to that argument, is that we have an evolving sense of what’s good for children.

    When I was young, my parents’ first few cars didn’t have seatbelts. I was never in a carseat. My brothers and sisters and I bounced around in the back of the station wagon. Parents would be horrified by that now, but do I think less of my parents for doing that? No, because that was the norm then. Now we know children will die if you get in an accident and they don’t have a seatbelt or a carseat to protect them.

    In the same way, our knowledge about what promotes children’s positive development has grown dramatically over the last few decades, and we now know that there are much better ways of teaching children right from wrong than hitting them. We don’t need to condemn what our parents did in the past in order to recognize that we know more now and can act on that knowledge.

    So do you think the practice of spanking will end in the U.S.?

    It might take generations, but I think spanking children will become increasingly unacceptable as a means of disciplining children and will effectively end. Maybe states will pass laws that ban spanking, as 29 other countries have done. Those countries have done so because they have recognized that spanking violates children’s rights to protection from physical harm. I think that a combination of recognizing that spanking physically and emotionally harms children, and that spanking is entirely ineffective in promoting appropriate behavior, will lead Americans to reduce and eventually stop spanking their children.

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      William H. said on Feb. 4, 2012 at 11:58 p.m.
      Everybody, whether you are pro or anti-spanking, needs to read the information Robert Lazelere, Ph.D. has compiled in his years of study. Some of his main thesis papers deal with the misinterpretation of findings, lack of factual evidence, and skewed results of so-called research on the subject of corporal punishment. He even mentions Elizabeth Gershoff in these findings. His work is well worth studying.
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      Billy said on Jan. 12, 2012 at 6:52 p.m.
      I thought this was called To spank or not to spank! Not why you shouldn't spank your kids! For the abuse side of it did you ever think that these parents have no self control?
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      Natalie said on June 14, 2011 at 7:38 a.m.
      @ Pedro C. - Why don't you want your child to put his fingers in the door hinge? Probably because you don't want him to be hurt, correct? Then how would you, his parent, hurting him instead help? Because it's a "lesser hurt"? Maybe physically it would hurt less. Also, I don't think it has to be "Well, either he gets his fingers pinched OR I slap his hand" kind of an argument. Why can't there be another option? Perhaps you as the parent will have to continually interest your child in something else or put a barrier between him and the temptation object. PROTECT your child - not PUNISH him for being curious.
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      Pedro C. said on April 15, 2011 at 10:16 a.m.
      You have a 2 year old kid who doesn't quite speak yet. And you tell him that it's bad to put his hand in door hinge gaps. 20 seconds later, you see, his hand is back where the fingers can be snapped. you take his hand out of there. 20 seconds later, the hand is back. Is it better to let the child be with the knowledge of something he can't understand completely, or just slap him to let him know that it hurts if he keeps doing that? For the past 20 years, psychologists have been trying to push the idea that spanking a child is wrong and leads to bad results. The result is a generation of kids with no respect for anything, because they know nothing bad will happen to them. They have to learn, from a very early age, that something bad is going to happen TO THEM if they don't behave like they're told to by the "authority".
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      Jess said on April 15, 2011 at 10:15 a.m.
      This is complete BS. Ive been around kids that dont get spanked. They are usually overindulged undisciplined disrespectful brats that I cant get away from fast enough. As with everything there needs to be a balance. Its actually the extremes that cause problems. Each generation produces more self involved rude people that care about no one but themselves and produces more criminals. Ironic isnt it that each generation spanks less and less.
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      Gerald Burns said on April 11, 2011 at 2:23 p.m.
      I am curious as to what makes you say it is bad ... kids to day have more freedoms and less punishment than we growing up and it shows with more and more that kids know nothing is going to be done to them.
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      Don said on April 11, 2011 at 2:08 p.m.
      Dr. Gershoff's opinions reveal her own biases. First: "[I]f a parent hits their child rather than taking the time to reason and explain things to them, then the child may end up poorly behaved because she doesn’t understand what she’s supposed to be doing." Since when are spanking and explaining mutually exclusive? My wife and I always make sure we explain the situation to our son, regardless of what the punishment is. And since when is hitting the same as spanking? Spanking has a very specific definition: an open-handed slap on the buttocks. Hitting can be any sort of physical strike to any part of the body. By equating the two, she associates spanking with real physical abuse. Finally, her car seat example is bogus. Riding unsecured in a car is totally harmless so long as the car isn't involved in a collision. There is no cumulative damage that builds up each time a child rides unsecured in a car. That is not how she is characterizing spanking. If spanking has a cumulative negative effect, then why did those of us who were spanked turn out OK? Shouldn't we be emotionally scarred in some way? She never actually answered that question. Rather, she dodged it by trying to explain it into irrelevancy. I'd like to see this study repeated by someone who doesn't have an agenda.
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      Armando said on April 11, 2011 at 1:26 p.m.
      The blindly speculative probability of either Daryoush or John being a 'spaz' or bitter is not solid ground on which base your refutation, Kristin. That's just ad hominem, and can be dismissed out of hand The sealtbelt analogy doesn't really sound very convincing. A car not having seatbelts is different from deliberately not strapping your kids in, and corporal punishment is a deliberate action. Most research on spanking also treats it in a vacuum, without taking into consideration any positive/rewarding mechanisms incorporated into the holistic parenting philosophy. If children are spanked when they misbehave, but are ignored when they act rightly or succeed in some event, then of course they are more likely to act bitter or be a 'spaz,' since the only recognition they receive is when they are acting badly. They're likely to never feel like they can do right by their parents if the only attention they get is spanking! To further abuse the cliché 'personal experience' line of argument, I was spanked as a kid up until about 4th grade, 99% with my father's hand, and one instance with a belt. But I also had elaborate birthday parties thrown for me, and I got rewards for doing well in school and acting kindly to others. My parents were active in my life, and when not being punished either corporally or through divestment of privileges, I was surrounded with a sense of support and actual parental interest. I'd like to think I came out pretty alright, despite the fact that my parents spanked me. I think I developed a pretty rigid moral compass because of it, not just because I have a sense of what not to do, but also because I have a sense of what I ought to do. I'd like to think I turned out alright. And I have no pathological need to affirm my parents' goodness by not admitting they were wrong in spanking me. I have many criticisms of my parents and their parenting philosophy, but spanking surely isn't one of them. This is perhaps a defect in social studies methodology that may derive from a misapplication of a scientific reductionism, where one may just want to look at one aspect of parenting in relation either exclusively to itself, or in relation the external environment, but not to the other aspects of parenting. I say this all, admittedly, without having read the research, which I ought to do. This may all be covered in Gershoff's work, and I may be blindly ignorant to it; in which case, I concede any arguments I have posed here. The aforementioned comments simply derive out of personal experience and reflection on that personal experience.
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      Kristin said on April 11, 2011 at 11:20 a.m.
      "I got spanked/hit as a belt as a kid and I turned out just fine." - Except for the fact that you are probably a spaz or bitter. Your opinion of yourself being "fine" is a rather biased - I'd be interested in the opinion of how "fine" you are from those who know you.
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      Daryoush said on April 11, 2011 at 2:26 a.m.
      To say you shouldn't spank your kids doesn't make sense. I got spanked as a kid and I turned out just fine. And the argument against what I just said seems weird. I think not spanking your kids has a negative effect. The opposite of this research. I think the author's research went towards her goal, finding research against spanking kids...
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      Paul said on April 11, 2011 at 2:02 a.m.
      I'm glad I don't have to sit near her kids on a long airplane flight.
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      John said on April 10, 2011 at 12:10 a.m.
      haha, you'll never forgive them? Wow. I was hit with the belt and I don't resent my parents for it. You were probably spoiled.
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      Carol Mitchell said on April 9, 2011 at 8:06 p.m.
      As a neighbor of your family, I appreciate your understanding of our parenting styles being like our own parents which included spanking. I appreciate your research which encourages us to continue to evolve as parents. Every parent's desire is to do the best for their children. Increasing our knowledge is the key to progress. Respect and effective communication could eliminate the need for corporal punishment.
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      Daryoush said on April 9, 2011 at 2:05 a.m.
      It's ridiculous to say that spanking is bad for kids. Countries where spanking is prevalent, kids are better. Here in America, hardly anyone spanks and look what happens....as long as punishment is dealt responsibly, there is nothing wrong with spanking.
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      Stephanie said on April 8, 2011 at 3:00 p.m.
      Ashley, come on...your seriously comparing an adult getting "womped" and getting "beatings" to what could just be a slight spanking on a toddler's behind over his shorts? I bet you don't have kids...I sure don't want my employer to tell me to be back at 10 pm on a Friday night, but I sure am going to tell my 12 year old daughter she has a curfew...so that do unto others spill...come on- I don't think my professor should ever put me in time out either- let's just do nothing to teach our kids right from wrong! And as far as those saying lazy parents spank their children- let's take a closer look here- the lazy parents are often the ones who give no form of discipline and let their children sit in front of video games and tv all day, not a parent like me that gives my son a slight pop once in a while and spends hours a day playing hide and seek and teaching my son to read...why don't we spend a little more time condemning those parents or actual abusive parents? And also my son has never been fearful of me- he's fearful of the bullies at the playground with the parents that do nothing and he runs to me for support-but what do you do with parents who don't say anything to their children? You just sit back and think, crap there's going to be another self-absorbed entitled brat running around- just what we need!
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      Ashley said on April 8, 2011 at 10:41 a.m.
      Often in class, when the professor can't get my attention, they will come over to my desk and womp me a few good ones on my backside. This is because I have not been listening, and the best way to get through to me is not to adjust their teaching style, but to infringe my liberties and beat me until I "get the picture." I mean, it makes it ok because they usually calmly explain to me the very just reasons behind the necessity of beating me. And since I dont want government doing its job and protecting me by telling that teacher how to run their class, I'm actively opposed to legislation that would even marginally ask a person of authority not to abuse their power, and any great research that might ask my teachers to be introspective for even a moment. I fully expect my employer to adjust my behavior and my attitude by beating me, because duh, I must have qualities in the first place that deserve this treatment! I have no capacity to learn beyond being taken over the knee of my boss, and beaten into submission. I probably wont sue because, after all, it gets results. If we would not accept this in the workplace or school, why on earth would we accept it in our homes? I guess the notion "do unto to others as you would have them do unto you" somehow doesn't apply to children, the most helpless members of our society.
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      Sue said on April 7, 2011 at 2:24 p.m.
      It is so hard for me to even comprehend that we are still having this discussion. How is hitting ANYONE, much less one's own child, ever appropriate? Unless you are an athlete in the ring who has consented to participate in a boxing/wrestling/fighting match, there is absolutely no acceptable reason to ever hit another human being. You can talk all day long until you are blue in the face about the negative consequences of spanking. But until society realizes that aggression of any type is not a solution, parents will continue to hit their own children. I'm a mother of two daughters who have never been and will never be spanked, swatted, kicked, pushed, or otherwise aggressed-upon by their parents. The fact that there are parents here who do so "to get their child's attention" is absolutely appalling.
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      Moss Shimek said on April 7, 2011 at 2:04 p.m.
      Spanking is lazy parenting. Why bother explaining correct behavior when you can just wallop your kid into compliance? Certainly, there are parents who refuse to spank their kids so the kids run wild and free and are never disciplined. There are also children afraid to engage in the world for fear of their parents’ reaction. However, looking at these polar opposites does no one any good. Ways exist to discipline children that do not involve bullying them into compliance but it takes more effort than swatting them on the bottom.
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      Beth said on April 7, 2011 at 1:16 p.m.
      Apparently, the author already decided what outcome she wanted and found the research to benefit her ideas. I wonder if she has any children to conduct "her research" upon. Kids and young adults today have little or not respect for anyone. They feel they are entitled to whatever they want. I am a proud parent of 2 kids and I have spanked them both to get their attention for repeated actions. And spanking was only done after talking and explaining to them til I was "blue in the face". Only then, did they understand that spanking was enforcing that consequences follow bad manners/habits/actions. So, I say to all of you people that don't believe in disciplining your child by an occasional or well deserved swat across the behind, shame on you. Your kids probably have the attitude that they are "owed" and "entitled" and to heck with everyone else. And how dare you people try to tell me how to raise my children. I was spanked and I graduated first in my class in high school, college, and law school. I am extremely close to both of my parents and do not begrudge them for how they raised me. They did what they thought was best.
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      Donetta said on April 7, 2011 at 11:38 a.m.
      As a parent, I don't spank my child as a form of punishment I do it to get there attention after several verbal warnings of behavior and or actions that are not acceptable. Toddlers are at the stage and frame of mind, that everything is of and about them (ego) and to me this makes it hard for them to follow some instructions that takes attention away from them. Therefore, to get their attention at times a spanking is necessary because timeouts, quiet time, explanations or what have you does not sink in as it should. After gaining a child's attention once a spanking has been given then the opportunity to teach them how to behave is better absorbed mentally, they remember and are less likely to repeat it. I believe spanking is beneficial and is not a form of child abuse, there is a difference between spanking and beating a child.
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      Stephanie said on April 7, 2011 at 11:23 a.m.
      That is rediculous that any one thinks spanking should be banned. I'm a young mom that pops my 2 and a half year old son over his diaper and/or shorts and the only way someone could see that I just popped him is the attentive look on his face. As a mom who goes to the park all of the time, I see how out of control many of the other kids are in which the parents have no form of discipline other than, "please don't throw rocks at that kid's face." My son gets pops, but he is the one that is always getting seriously bullied by children whom are given no form of discipline. My son is the sweetest little boy and we always talk it over after he gets popped. When it comes to my son running toward the street or a safety problem when it is not a place for a time out, the first thing I do is give him a slight pop and then ask him why I popped him and he gets it! There should be no problem with a combination of light spankings (or pops as we call them) to get their attention and then ask some questions on why mommy or daddy was upset with them. I definitely don't advocate hard spanking or spanking on a daily basis but light spankings on an occasion when it's needed is a sign of love not intended for emotional, mental, and physical abuse! I also agree with what Kristal says about the younger generations.
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      Amber said on April 7, 2011 at 10:46 a.m.
      You can talk to a child until you are blue in the face, but spanking gets attention. Not all spanking parents are acting out of anger or laziness, as Michelle said. As a matter of fact, I take the time to calmly explain to them that they are getting a spanking as well as the reason that they are getting it. I also feel that if you do it at a young age, they will have respect for authorities at a young age, which will carry on throughout their adult lives. I am a "survivor" of spanking, and have a wonderful relationship with my parents. I am outgoing, positive, successful, and find that I posses more manners than the average adult in today's world. I understand the difference between right and wrong, and it didn't take me paying devastating consequences that I would have otherwise faced. Since the evolution of "spanking is wrong", teens have become less respectful and more entitled. I am just surprised that the author didn't express this in a realistic tone.
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      Charles said on April 7, 2011 at 10:17 a.m.
      Can I say "duh", of course children who get spanked are more likely to to be aggressive and anti-social. They're probably getting spanked because they posses those traits to begin with. The article makes several disclaimers that the causality between spanking and negative behavior hasn't been established so at least she's honest. What I really want to say is, YOU people, who want want our government to pass a law (based on junk science) that allows CPS and the police inside our homes to monitor parental behavior are NUTS. Once you let them in they won't leave, be careful what law you wish for.
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      Katie said on April 7, 2011 at 6:09 a.m.
      I am disgusted by all the pro-spanking comments here. My parents spanked me and maybe I "turned out alright" but I'm not sure i will ever forgive them. The spankings I got as a child made my sisters and me really resent them and I don't know if I can ever have a strong bond with my parents because of that. I will never lay a hand on my children. There is no excuse to hit anyone, much less a small child.
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      Julie said on April 6, 2011 at 9:26 p.m.
      The article doesn't distinguish between different spanking methods. So it makes a false correlation. Abusive, compulsive, inconsistently and inappropriately applied spanking probably does lead to negative outcomes. People who spank their children in this way are probably already undisciplined themselves, which coule be the root cause of propagating the negative effects. Undisciplined parents applying corporal punishment in a way that reinforces their own character flaws. On the other hand, a disciplined person would be able to restrain him or herself from administering corporal punishment in an inappropriate way. I would expect a stronger correlation between parent and child social patterns, than strictly between social patterns and use of corporal punishment.
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      Lily said on April 6, 2011 at 8:22 p.m.
      I think spanking casted a shadow on me as I grew up. My parents used to spank me everyday (especially my mom). They stopped when I reached my teenage years. But they still joke about spanking me. They think it's funny.
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      William McCraney said on April 6, 2011 at 7:15 p.m.
      The entire time I read this I was thinking.... I got spanked and I turned out fine. Then she made the point that we think that because were nieve and don't understand that it was negative. I disagree. I learned that backtalking my mother was not the way to go EVER. I really did not enjoy reading this article. AND BANNING SPANKING?? that's just not right. Abusing them yes. Slapping their butt, no.
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      Joseph Michael McCarthy said on April 6, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.
      Spanking is emotional,mental, and physical abuse on any child or human being. It should be banned outright.
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      Gloria Shimanek said on April 6, 2011 at 11:27 a.m.
      I applaud this research and article. Corporal punishment in the schools and physical violence/discipline at home is truly barbaric in nature. It harms children immensely and promotes the idea that problems are resolved with the use of physical assault. Yes, assault. A school-aged child can be disciplined physically at home and at school, yet we will put this same child in ISS, or spanked/hit again, for getting into a fight. So absurd. So ignorant. I applaud the more progressive countries...
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      Kristal said on April 6, 2011 at 10:22 a.m.
      I wonder how many children this author has? I would also like to read what research she has done regarding the outcomes (crimes, college, etc.) on children that are not spanked. Children should not be beaten, I agree. However, when I spank my child I explain to him why he is getting spanked before doing so. It's not just an anger induced beating as she seems to believe happens. Younger generations are more disrespectful, lack real world learning (for example "everyone wins" in races now) and are just down right coddled to extremes. There is no right way to parent. Every child is different. I may not spank my next child if it doesn't work as a punishment. I will also change my punishments as he gets older to fit the crime better. Right now he is too young to mentally understand the concept of grounding or taking away his games. It's not that it's because when they are teenagers they can fight back, it's merely a different understanding. When I was a teenager I would get my car taken away (DEVASTATING). A good persuasive article would be more prepared for counter arguments.
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      Jason A Clark said on April 6, 2011 at 8:51 a.m.
      Joseph, I don't think a parent spanking a child is the same as a teacher spanking a child. I'm sure plenty of parents who are proponents of spanking would not want a teacher to touch their child. As a parent who spanks and a child who was spanked I can vouch for its effectiveness. I was rarely spanked but I do remember the few times I was...I deserved it and I learned my lesson. My child is seldom spanked but she is aware of what behavior will result in a spanking and she is given ample opportunity to correct the action before it results in a spanking. This isn't child abuse - it's called parenting. The instructional value of a spanking is advocated in the Bible and throughout pretty much every culture in the world. Indeed, studies have corresponded modern behavioral problems and moral ambivalence to the anti-spanking movement of Dr. Spock and that generation. In fact, the generation that read his book raised children responsible for the most dramatic increases in divorce, crime, and teen suicide in American History (not counting the Great Depression). Should parents always spank their child for everything the child does wrong? Of course not. Should spanking be one form of discipline that can be used to discipline and instruct your child? Yes. I too find this article to be condescending and one-sided. This doesn't sound at all like the research began with an open mind - they clearly wanted the data to support their claims. Some of the data is misleading at best. For instance, the article states "There have been several studies on this issue, and they nearly all find that a majority of incidents of abuse — 60, 70, 80 percent — begin as some form of physical punishment." That's not surprising. People who abuse their children probably did start off by spanking. That's like saying that 60, 70, or 80 percent of convicted con artists started off by telling white lies...it's to be expected. However, that doesn't mean that 60, 70, or 80 percent of children who were spanked were later abused. Yet the article certainly makes it sound that way. This researcher's data may show her that spanking is not a suitable form of punishment but there is plenty of data that shows the opposite as well. Too bad she didn't look at any of that.
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      Michelle said on April 6, 2011 at 8:24 a.m.
      The only parents I know who spank are the laziest and least thoughtful when it comes to how they handle their kids. I honestly believe that kids who are talked to, interacted with, and carefully handled from the earliest ages generally respond well to time-outs and other, less harsh, forms of discipline. The ultimate goal is not to have behavior compliance that moment, it's to create a kid who can make the best choices for themselves later down the line. The problem is, this is a energy intensive process that requires patience. Spanking just requires that you hit your kid. All it proves is that you're bigger and stronger, and therefore must be obeyed. What a lousy lesson to teach a small child. You cannot expect a little kid to comply with everything anyway- that's why it's called childish behavior. The ages of 2-5 is when they start to learn the art of self control, and it's the parent's job to teach them how to do it themselves. The rod only teaches them how to obey the rod, and too often the rod is wielded by a frustrated parent who has lost control of themselves. If, when my son is 15 and he is presented with a good/bad choice, he chooses the right course of action without me being around, I will consider myself a successful parent.
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      Paul Bommer said on April 6, 2011 at 6:57 a.m.
      I believe adults who hit children are doing so out of frustration of the moment. They do not or cannot think of an immediate alternative. Also, the observation that spanking tends to give an immediate result probably reinforces the behavior in the adult. Think first, then don't hit.
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      Jacob said on April 6, 2011 at 2:42 a.m.
      if spanking is banned then isn't that violating private rights. regardless of what anti-spanking people say kids who got spanked turn out to be better kids in many different areas, also spanking is not physical abuse.
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      Dee said on April 5, 2011 at 8:58 p.m.
      for Nick -- teaching children the value of working hard -- bravo! But that's done by creating valuable experiences for them, working alongside them, showing them that you yourself work hard, and talking to them about the logical outcomes of hard work. Being spanked doesn't actually do anything to teach hard work. It's rather like saying that my child will learn to read if I whistle; there's just not any relationship between the two. Is it possible for people who have been spanked go on to be fine adults? Of course they can; most of us fall into that category. We were not severely damaged by spankings. But did we become fine adults because of it?? The point of this research is that no one has ever been able to find evidence of long-term positive impacts of spanking -- so why choose it as a parenting tool? In other words, children simply don't learn what we want them to from spanking. At best, they learn "This big person on whom I depend is unhappy, and I'd better figure out how to please them so we'll both be okay again," but they don't learn anything deeper like values. In fact, having to take care of an adult's emotions for them creates in a child a truly exaggerated sense of power that risks making the parenting job a heck of a lot more difficult down the road. So, if I want my children to learn something (like values), I have to show them and instruct them. If I want them to comply immediately (which sometimes I do, especially if I don't know how else to get them to stop what they're doing), I may spank. But I have to be honest with myself about that choice -- spanking serves ME. It makes me feel better right away because I get relief from the stress of the situation and things seem in control again. So, spanking is about my needs; teaching is about the children's needs.
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      Dean Cook said on April 5, 2011 at 8:58 p.m.
      This was a very informative article. Although I was already opposed to spanking children, this article gave me new facts and arguments to cite to my friends who still insist that spanking is an effective form of discipline for children. I am glad to see that my old alma mater is still turning out great scholarly material.
    • Quote 2
      Carol said on April 5, 2011 at 6:27 p.m.
      To Susan who commented above: I love your 90 year old mother. She is a wise woman. I wish all parents would follow her methods.
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      Jason said on April 5, 2011 at 6:17 p.m.
      pretty good otherside of the coing. if the only the only relationship you have with you kids is a spanking one, well then duh, it makes sense they're gonna be messed up, try having a good two way communication relationship with your child, reward good behavior and punish bad behavior. Proverbs 13:24 and 23:12-14. Of course liberals of the world would shiver at the thought of using the Bible to guide their lives. http://www.tldm.org/news6/child.discipline.htm
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      Joseph Michael McCarthy said on April 5, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.
      As an educator I hope and pray that the State of Texas will out law Corporal Punishment once and for all in public and private schools. When a teacher needs to resort to using corporal punishment one has lost total control in ones classroom setting. As a teacher one has to take the child where he or she is at on the first day of school and go from there. Their are other ways of diciplining kids without resorting to corporal punishment. Research studies have shown that those children who have been spanked in school at any age level end up goiong to prison later in life because of not having caring and understanding teachers during their childhood or while they were enrolled in school.
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      susan said on April 5, 2011 at 1:03 p.m.
      My mother, now in her 90's, said that spanking a child is the sign that the adult is out of control and needs to take a break. She also said--a crying out-of-control child means a tired, thirsty or hungry kid. Deal with these first and then if all you can think of is to hit a kid--then take a time out. Adults don't spank, hit, or slap each other and generally parents only spank little kids--not teenagers. Could this be because the bigger kids could actually fight back? Big people hitting little people is an awful idea.
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      Shane said on April 5, 2011 at 11:49 a.m.
      In her response to “What do you say to people who say, “My parents spanked me, and I turned out fine?” she explains that people don’t want to condemn their parents. Her answer is a blanket response without truly delving into why people argue that point. People who were spanked have the ability to think objectively on the matter and still come to the conclusion that spanking is an option. It seems she discredits that argument instead of addressing that people do have validity to the argument.
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      Nick said on April 5, 2011 at 10:14 a.m.
      The younger generation is ultimately more disrespectful and unruly. I attribute that due to the fact that educated people are getting involved where a degree holds no merit. There are many outside variables that play into these behavioral studies that have probably not been evaluated i.e school life, friends, hardships. I believe that spanking is necessary but there is a line that can be crossed very quickly. Abuse and spanking are two completely different areas. Kids this day and age do not know the value of anything due to the fact that they were placed in time out for 5 minutes, allowed to go about their business once more doing the same, and given whatever their hearts desire without the knowledge of hard work.
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      Greg M said on April 5, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.
      well it is apparent given her statement at the end regarding the end of spanking is the telling point of this article. She wasn't about to publish anything that didn't show her desired agenda to promote "childrens rights". Sorry but the premise and the even the conceptual model of the meta-analysis is flawed.'I refer to child “behaviors and experiences” or “constructs” associated with parental corporal punishment..." page 540 of the attached research. Furthermore, it is a child centric, not an parent centric analysis. Who is in charge I ask? rather than to child “outcomes” in the context of the meta-analyses.
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      Lauren said on April 5, 2011 at 10:06 a.m.
      My parents spanked me. It was not emotionally scarring and I never even think about it unless I come across an article like this. It was an effective punishment that they only had to use rarely. I found this article to be quite condescending to those of us who truly are fine with it.
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      Shannon Vincent said on April 5, 2011 at 8:49 a.m.
      I thank my parents for setting me straight with a spanking. My sister and I are level headed, law biding citizens. A short physical lesson is better than an ongoing mental abuse.
    • Quote 2
      Cameron said on April 4, 2011 at 9:02 p.m.
      When it comes to discipline of children, I chose not to consult the studies and research of how it effects children long-tern. All kids are different and it is up to the parent(s) to decide what is best for them. I know people who were spanked and turned out just fine and vice versa. I have also seen kids who where never spanked, but where punished with "time out" or things being taken away and that was not enough for them to stop doing wrong. These studies do not represent all children around the globe, so take the results with a "grain of salt."
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      Daniel said on April 4, 2011 at 7:00 p.m.
      With publications like this, it's hard to make an argument that Rick Perry is wrong about the value of research to the state of Texas. The University of Texas would rather cut student services and increase class size than de-fund studies which do no original research at all but draw universal conclusions about complex social issues as though they were scientifically defensible. Most children also find vegetables unappetizing, and if they knew about their right to protection from physical harm, they'd object to the needles used for immunizations. A great many things which are not comfortable are good for us. The question of whether spanking is efficacious is a fair question, but to insinuate that anything adults do to children that is uncomfortable is also child abuse is fool-hardy. The research presented by Gershoff is un-nuanced in the area of the effects of spankings though. She's shown that the people who spank most get the least effect from it, but she hasn't studied at all the effectiveness of spanking for parents who also reason with their children. This gives lie to her claim that spanking is never good, because all she's shown is that spanking without any other parenting is not good. Of course spanking isn't the only tool in a parent's toolbox, which is why parents use it rarely.
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      Meredith Hodgkinson said on April 4, 2011 at 6:45 p.m.
      Hitting children should be prosecuted the same as assault of an adult: it is assault. I am glad someone is doing this research because the thought of anyone hitting a child is so revolting to me, I cannot even consider the topic.
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      Andy said on April 4, 2011 at 6:16 p.m.
      I was spanked one time in my childhood by my father and was slapped once by my mother. The purpose was just to tell me that if I didn't calm down, they would resort to more corporal punishment. Usually though, I just got grounded from the computer or TV. I'm glad my parents didn't ever beat me. The one spanking and the one slap were enough, and I'm a pretty well behaved young man these days.
    • Quote 2
      Andy said on April 4, 2011 at 5:23 p.m.
      Good article, but I would have liked to hear about some recommended alternatives to spanking your child.
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      Ryan said on April 1, 2011 at 1:04 p.m.
      Spanking doesn't seem so bad. I'm sure the little rascals generally deserve it.
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      Jimmy Dunne said on March 23, 2011 at 10:31 a.m.
      We are at the point where spanking children with any implement such as paddles, belts, straps and extension cords should be labeled "child abuse" and be against the law. Using the bare hand should be discouraged for all the negative consequences mentioned in Gershoff's interview. School paddling should be totally against the law in every state.
    • Quote 2
      Earl Richards said on March 23, 2011 at 2:22 a.m.
      Corporal punishment and spanking are one of the causes of wife-beating and other types of domestic violence. The wooden paddle should never have been invented in the first place.
    • Quote 2
      Julie Worley said on March 22, 2011 at 9:52 p.m.
      Please visit the Unlimited Justice dot com website for information on adding your voice to lawmakers in 20 U.S. States that legally allow paddling children with wooden boards in schools.
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