There’s been a lot of debate about the merits of spanking over the last 50
years, but a new study is providing some
hard data about the
results of spanking on developing personalities.
The study at
Tulane University observed the development of almost 2,500 children.
Those who were spanked more frequently at age three proved to be much
more likely to be aggressive by age five.
Though this isn’t the
first study of the affects of corporal punishment on children, the Tulane study is the first to attempt to
control and compensate for many of the environmental variables that might muddy
their attempt to prove a causal link between spanking and development.
study, led by Catherine Taylor, accounted for things like neglect by the
mother, violence or aggression between the parents, maternal stress and
depression, maternal substance abuse and even whether the child’s mother
considered abortion while pregnant with the child being studied.
While all of
those environmental factors contributed to the children’s aggressive behavior
by the age of five, the connection between spanking and aggression remained
strong, even after those factors had been accounted for. “The odds of a child
being more aggressive by age five if he had been spanked more than twice in the
month before the study began increased by 50 per cent,” said Taylor.
Because her study was so thorough in accounting for other variables, its
results allow researchers to confidently state that, “it’s not just that
children who are more aggressive are more likely to be spanked.”
thoroughness gives the study real weight in what is often a very subjective and sensitive conversation.
”I’m excited by the idea that there is now some nice hard data that can
back up clinicians when they share their caution with parents against using
corporal punishment,” said Dr. Jayne Singer, clinical director of the child and
parent program at Children’s Hospital Boston, who was not involved in the
the study who were spanked proved to be more defiant, more easily frustrated
and more demanding of instant satisfaction of wants and needs. Singer
suggested that the reason for that may be that spanking is effective because it
installs fear, rather than an understanding of why a particular behavior
shouldn’t continue. It also models aggression as a solution to problems.
Singer recommended time outs as a good way to help children understand
why a behaviour was wrong and eventually correct the behavior. Explaining
the reason for the punishment, then forcing a little quiet time to calm down
and reflect, may take more repetition and energy in the short run, but in the
long run it produces more effective results.