Study Shows Spanking Just Doesn’t Work

A new analysis of two decade’s worth of research, published in the Canadian Medical Associate Journal, seems to confirm what many parents have believed for years: spanking doesn’t work. Sure, it can be helpful in curbing short-term behavior issues, but in the long run, it doesn’t do a child any favors. There’s a reason corporeal punishment isn’t routine in schools anymore – why is it any different when a parent is dealing with their own child?

Research has shown that kids who are physically punished by their parents actually become more aggressive over time, according to Joan Durrant, a child psychologist and professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba. Not only that, but in an interview with Time magazine, she pointed out that “those who are not physically punished get less aggressive over time.”

More than 80 different studies were reviewed for the analysis, and none have found positive long-term outcomes for children who are spanked. It can degrade relationships between parents and children, says Durrant. The Time article goes on to outline a whole host of long-term issues caused by spanking:

Children who are spanked may feel depressed and devalued, and their sense of self-worth can suffer. Harsh punishments can wind up backfiring because they can foster lying in children who are desperate to avoid being spanked. Later in life, physical punishment is linked to mental-health problems including depression, anxiety and drug and alcohol use. There’s neuroimaging evidence that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain involved in performance on IQ tests and up the likelihood of substance abuse. And there’s also early data that spanking could affect areas of the brain involved in emotion and stress regulation.

So, given the research, why do so many parents – some studies estimate up to 90% of parents – still spank their children? It turns out there are a host of reasons. Parents may believe it’s appropriate because they were spanked as children and “turned out fine.” They may not even know where to start in punishing a child without resorting to spanking – there aren’t a lot of resources easily available to educate parents on appropriate methods of discipline. Parents may also simply dig in their heels, frustrated by the idea that someone else is trying to tell them how to raise their child.

The research, however, is clear: it’s not about tradition or allowing parents autonomy in child-rearing decisions. Ultimately, it’s about parents being able to foster a closer, more trusting bond with their children long-term – without children feeling the need to lie or sneak behind their parents’ backs to avoid punishment. And it’s about equipping kids with the tools they need to learn how to peacefully handle conflict in the adult world. And isn’t that ultimately what all parents should strive for?


Related Stories:

New Mexico Bans Spanking Children In Schools

A Prescription For Spanking?

Beating Children Is Still Legal In Twenty U.S. States


Photo by: D Sharon Pruitt


Amy Liebetreu
Amy L.3 years ago

Spanking works well on adults.

Berny P.
Berny p.4 years ago

The "time out" kids are almost always rude and spoiled. time out moms read to many books on moms not enough what time spent on observation of their kids and what works.

You only have to go to the mall...restaurants....on a plane.....and you will see the spoiled brats doing there bits......
of adults...we are not allowed to say for are Gods!...

Lynette B.
Lynette B.4 years ago

We will never spank our little girl. With all the research out there it boggles my mind why parents still resort to spanking. I prefer to call it lazy parenting. Spend more time with your children connect with them. Spanking = violence. You won't let anyone on the street or a friend or your parents or your partner or spouse hit you as an adult what makes it right for a parent to hit a much smaller child who can not defend himself.

Gwendolyn no-mail
Gwendolyn Krupa4 years ago

Thanks. Sharing on Facebook.

Enni S.
Enni S.4 years ago

Oh, and for that somebody who asked how do you reason with a two-year-old: you don't. You tell them no, and they listen.

Enni S.
Enni S.4 years ago

If you need to resort to physically abusing your child to get him/her behave, you are failing as a parent. It's that simple. Causing fear is no way to raise a mentally and emotionally healthy human. Ask anyone who has left from an abusive relationship would they want a child to grow in similar environment, in similar, if not worse, relationship, as the kid has no means of leaving unless someone gets involved or the kid grows old enough, when the harm is already done.

Chad A.
Chad Anderson4 years ago

Violence begets violence. The only compelling arguments I have heard in favor of corporal punishment are that "it works" (on the basis of the speaker having turned out fine or witnessing the effect on others) and that there is no alternative.

Park found in a 1996 study of Korean elementary school students that 77% had received corporal punishment in the last year as punishment with 18% "severely" punished without knowing why. The Korean Institute of Criminology found in a 2008 survey that 88% reported receiving corporal punishment as a child, with 50% of those having been harshly punished "for no specific reason" and 69% of those reporting having seen their parents violent towards each other. Roughly 30% of the sample said that violence was more effective than the law in solving problems. Both studies suggested that widespread corporal punishment serves as a cover for a lot of child abuse. I am only familar with Korean data because that is where I work and publish, but I have no reason to believe this is a cultural quirk unique to Korea.

I am not going to argue that "I turned out okay" so non-violence is therefore the best method. I will say, however, that my parents were both handled with very harsh corporal punishment and were determined not to engage in corporal punishment with my brother and me. Neither of us were ever subject to coporal punishment, so I know it is possible. Anecdotally, neither of us has been in a fight and both of us are very non-violent people,

Janet K.
Janet K.4 years ago

My best friend went to school in the UK when caning was still in use and he says, "if it weren't for caning, I'd be in the penitentiary today!"

Bruce G.
Bruce G.4 years ago

P.S. Has anyone given the results of this study to ' Dr.' Dobson, founder of The right wing "American Family?" He's made a fortune peddling the idea that it's okay to spank. Perhaps, in light of this research, his followers can now apply for a refund on all the books he has written on the subject. I guess it really doesn't matter, since most of them reject real science, and scientific studies, anyway.

Bruce G.
Bruce G.4 years ago

Think about what we really teach our children when we spank them: Violence is appropriate when one encounters unwanted behavior. We are making a violent response an acceptable response. This is the unintended consequence of spanking. Violence is, at its core, an impotent demand for obedience. If we can find no other way to encourage obedience, then we are lost.