Despite all the experts’ warnings that spanking kids lead to more harm than good, a very high percentage of parents still do it. The issue of whether or not to spank has led to a lot of argument both on the internet and offline. But no matter how hard some of us try to justify it, studies continue to insist that spanking is wrong.
A new study that was published in the American Journal of Family Psychology which was based on research done over five decades and involving 160,000 children, found that spanking is bad for our kids.
The researchers at the University of Austin, Texas and the University of Michigan discovered that spanked children are the ones that are more likely to defy their parents and as they grow up, the effect could manifest itself in anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.
This study also specified what was considered spanking which is defined as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.” It also made sure to focus on the effect of spanking alone unlike previous ones that considered spanking in addition to other punishment or abusive behaviors.
The study also found that, for parents who want an immediate outcome, spanking does not help. Compared to other methods of getting through to kids, spanking is the least effective if you want to make them listen in the short term.
In a lot of cases, spanking makes the child’s behavior even worse. Researcher Elizabeth Gersoff explained that this form of discipline is actually quite damaging. The study examined adults who were spanked as children and the results were worrying. The more these adults were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit anti-social behavior or suffer mental health problems. They were also more likely to have anxiety and depression.
Most importantly, the researchers claim that spanking also leads to the same detrimental outcome in children as physical abuse. Gershoff said:
We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors. Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.
As for the argument most people often make about how spanking cannot be that bad since they were spanked and they turn out okay, Gershoff said, “we turned out OK in spite of spanking, not because of it.”
We imagine that this will be a tough pill to swallow especially for societies where spanking is considered the main (and sometimes only) form of discipline. But being a parent is all about being open to making changes wherever possible to better your child. And if this means exploring other ways to get through to your child, then it’s something that needs to be done.