Study shows spanking causes aggressive behavior, cognitive issues

angrykidMany moms and dads in America spank their children but a recent study by the American Academy of Pediatrics reveals that spanking leads to behavior issues and lower vocabulary scores.


Prevalence of spanking

The study "Spanking and Child Development Across the First Decade of Life" examined the prevalence of spanking by moms and dads of children at 3 and 5 years of age and the association between spanking and aggressive behavior and vocabulary through age 9. Parental reports from a study of children in 20 medium to large US cities was used. The data included an extensive set of child and family controls.

Overall 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers spanked when their children were 3, and 52 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers spanked when their children were 5, the study found. Maternal spanking at age 5, even at low levels, was associated with aggressive behavior at age 9, even after an array of risks and earlier child behaviors were controlled for, the study reported. Father's high-frequency spanking at age 5 was associated with lower receptive vocabulary scores at age 9.

"These results represent a strong test of the links between spanking and a child's aggressive behavior and vocabulary," the study authors wrote. "We add novel information about the role of fathers' spanking and add to an emerging literature on the effect of spanking on cognitive outcomes."

The authors suggested that future work should focus on providing families with a clearer picture of the outcomes associated with spanking so that they can move beyond punishment practices and incorporate more positive parenting behaviors to encourage a healthier future for children.