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."


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