Most parents still strongly support the idea of spanking kids, but a new study says spanking doesn’t work and can make kids aggressive later on.
While kids may not immediately defy their parents after a spanking, they’re more likely to be aggressive later, to have a worse relationship with their parents, and to grow up to have alcohol and substance abuse problems, the new study shows.
The team at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan focused on open-handed spanking — not beatings. They wanted to see if the time-honored practice really works as well as people believe it does.
It doesn’t, they report in the Journal of Family Psychology.
“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do,” said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor of the University of Michigan School of Social Work, who worked on the study.
The team did what’s called a meta-analysis, looking at hundreds of studies on spanking. They teased out very specific information about the “punishment which is known in the U.S. as spanking, and which we define as hitting a child on their buttocks or extremities using an open hand,” they wrote.
“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” said Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin.
They made a list of 17 undesirable outcomes, from immediate defiance to alcohol abuse in adulthood. Kids who were spanked more often failed in 13 out of the 17, they found.