Spanking can cause mental health problems in children, study suggests

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AUSTIN, Texas — A new study suggests spanking can cause children to defy their parents more frequently and can also result in lifelong mental health issues.

The study, conducted by experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, says spanking can cause permanent social and developmental problems.

The study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at over 160,000 children over a 50-year period.

The study defines spanking as: “An open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.”

As the frequency of spanking increases, the likelihood of anti-social behavior, mental health issues, and aggression also increases, according to the results of the study.

Children who were spanked were also more likely to support physical punishment of their own children.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” study author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a news release. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes, and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

According to a 2014 UNICEF report, as many as 80 percent of parents across the world admit to spanking their children.

“Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do,” co-author Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, said in the news release.

Researchers said there’s no evidence that shows spanking has any positive effect on a child’s behavior or development, and that outcomes from spanking can be compared to physical abuse.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” she says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”


  • Klaatu

    So this ‘study’ began right about the time the “summer of love” was upon us. Look at society as a whole, then and now. Violence has increased exponentially since Dr. Spock told us to spare the rod and spoil the child. Seems to me the adults that were a product of the times prior to the 1980’s are far less prone to violence and criminal activity. The kids these days need a good arse whipping to set them straight.

    • Christina Lisa

      You do realize what “spare the rod…” means right? The “rod” or staff they are referring to was used by shepherds in the fields to GUIDE sheep in the right direction and away from danger. To keep them together, safe as a group because a wandering sheep is in danger of predictors. The sheep weren’t beat with the rod. Spare the rod means to stay vigil in guiding the child. Do not allow them to wander sometimes and not others because it would confuse them and put them in danger. If a shepherd had singled out on sheep and beat it the sheep would avoid the rod, resist and resent it. The rod are rules where there are no fences.

      • DaTruth

        The “rod” was always used as a form of discipline and correction. This discipline comes in many ways and forms. The rod is used to correct sin. Every person, I know who has received spankings is better people from it and understand what led to the punishment. They all understood their due punishment. Spankings is not abuse and does nothing to a child, because the child understands his/her rebellious behavior. When a child gets to a certain age, they understand right from wrong and choose to be rebellious. A child will let you know their wrong by the expression on his/her face.

        HEBREWS 12:5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speak to you as to children, MY SON,HATE NOT YOU THE CHASTENING OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REBUKED OF HIM.
        7 If you endure chastening, God deal with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasten not?
        8 But if you be without chastisement, where all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons.
        9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live?

        All who receive no punishment end up killing their parents, doing mass shootings and what ever else their compelled to do. Bastard children receive no punishment what so ever and don’t know how to handle rejection. The powers that be want no discipline so they can drug and imprison the children.

  • DaTruth

    So the people who conducted this study is an expert on raising children and discipline. yeah right! this is a bunch of crap. Spanking is not connected to being abused, and many of children who received it that I’ve known growing up, has been okay with receiving their due punishment. Spankings created me into a respectable person still to this day. this is people who don’t know a thing about the Most High God, nor Christ! He said bring the children to him and the rod was apart of disciplining a child. So they need to take away institutions for misbehaved kids. They want to lock up your child and discipline them, but try to run folks household’s. This is the reason it is terrible out here. spanking has never been a problem and these folks need to stop mixing up corrective discipline with abuse.

  • Just Me

    I was spanked as a child, I do not have mental issues, I am not an abusive person. BUT I am respectful and a law bidding citizen. Why? because I was taught there are consequences, and punishments for your actions. Spanking and abuse are TWO totally different things. Lets look at society today, 90’s babies on, they were talked to not spanked, vast majority are put on some type of medication to act right at home in school etc. I would be safe to say that the mental issue is more so todays generations.

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