SPANKING MAKES CHILDREN VIOLENT, ANTISOCIAL
Effect same regardless of parenting style, socioeconomic status, sex of
child or ethnic background
Excerpt from the "American Medical Association News Update," August 13, 1997
CHICAGO--Spanking children to correct or control their behavior may seem to
work in the short term, but has the opposite effect in the long term, according
to an article in the August 1997 issue of the AMA's Archives of Pediatrics
& Adolescent Medicine.
Murray A. Straus, Ph.D., University of New Hampshire, Durham, and
colleagues studied data on 807 mothers. Each had at least one child age 6-9 years
when they were interviewed as part of the National Longitudinal Survey of
Youth-Child Supplement in 1988.
The researchers found that 44 percent of the mothers reported spanking
their children at least once during the week prior to the interview. On average,
the children were spanked 2.1 times during that week.
After measuring the children's antisocial behavior scores through
interviews with the mothers, the researchers found that children who were spanked even
once during the week prior to the base interview, showed an increase in antisocial
behavior two years after the base interview. They also found that the more
times a child is spanked, also known as corporal punishment, the more likely the
child is to display antisocial behavior.
Antisocial behavior in this study is based on six items:
cheats or tells lies
bullies or is cruel or mean to others
does not feel sorry after misbehaving
breaks things deliberately
is disobedient at school
has trouble getting along with teachers
The researchers write: “;We suggest that reduction or elimination of
corporal punishment could have major benefits for children and for reducing
antisocial behavior in society.”;
Unlike previous studies, this study was able to separate corporal punishment
and antisocial behavior from parenting style, socioeconomic status, sex of
the child and ethnic background.
Despite the fact that some parents believe that emotional warmth and
cognitive stimulation can override the effects of corporal punishment, the
researchers found that it had no bearing on the situation.
In addition, the link between corporal punishment and antisocial behavior
remained valid after adjusting for socioeconomic status, the sex of the
child and ethnic background. The increase in antisocial behavior because of
spanking was smaller for girls and minority children; however, the researchers
caution that the increase was in direct proportion to the amount of corporal
punishment the children received.
They write: “;Considering research showing that antisocial behavior in
childhood is associated with violence and other crime as an adult, society
as whole, not just children, could benefit from ending the system of violent
childrearing that goes under the euphemism of spanking.”; Spanking has
also been linked to low self-esteem, depression and low educational attainment.
They add: “;If the finding in minority group children is valid, it is
particularly important because many minority group parents believe that under
the conditions of inner-city life their children 'need strong discipline'
Children growing up in those difficult circumstances no doubt need closer
supervision and control, but attempting to do this by corporal punishment
may exacerbate rather than help the situation.”;
Corporal punishment in this study is defined as “;the use of physical
force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not
injury, for the purpose of correction or control of the child's behavior.”;
Parents using corporal punishment almost never use the term, rather they call it
“;a swat, “;a spanking,”; or “;a whooping.”;
In the current sample, 10 percent of mothers reported spanking their
children three or more times during the week preceding the original
interview; 14.1 percent spanked their children twice; and 19.8 percent spanked their
children once. (Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1997;151:761-767)
A link to the full text of "Spanking by Parents and Subsequent Antisocial
Behavior of Children," Straus et al, is provided in the file, "Other Good
Web Sites to Visit."
Return to Main Menu