Punishing your toddler with a few
swats on the rear may come back to bite you, a new report suggests.
According to the study, kids who
were spanked often were twice as likely as those who weren’t spanked to develop
aggressive behaviours such as getting into fights, destroying things or being
mean to others.
Earlier research had produced
similar results, but most had not taken into account how aggressive kids were
to begin with, and other factors could have biased the results.
Although the new study doesn’t
prove that corporal punishment causes aggression by itself, it shows that the
link remains even after excluding a broad range of possible explanations.
“That is really a key point
that sets the study apart,” said Catherine A. Taylor, of Tulane University
School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, who led the
research, published in the journal Paediatrics.
“Causality is extremely
difficult to prove,” Taylor said.. Still, she added, “the evidence is
at a point where we want to encourage parents to use techniques other than
spanking that can actually lower children’s risk for being more
Taylor and colleagues examined data
from an earlier, population-based study of families from 20 large cities in the
US. For that study, researchers had interviewed mothers when their children
were three years old and again when they were five. Based on the children’s
behaviours, roughly half were categorized as “higher aggression,” and
roughly half as “lower aggression.”
More than half of the nearly 2,500
kids had been spanked in the month before the interview. And those who had been
swatted more than twice at age three had twice as high odds of being highly aggressive
at age five.
Despite the opinion of professional
societies, surveys show that as many as 90 per cent of parents spank their
children. Taylor encourages parents to talk to a paediatrician about how to
better control their toddlers if they use this type of punishment.