Study of 160,000 children finds that spanking increases childhood defiance and long-term mental issues

Spanking is associated with unintended detrimental outcomes, finds a new study in the Journal of Family Psychology, based on five decades of research involving more than 160,000 children.

“The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children,” said lead author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, said in a statement Monday.. “Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.”

It’s the most extensive scientific investigation into the spanking issue, and one of the few to look specifically at spanking rather than grouping it with other forms of physical discipline.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

In fact, Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found that the more frequently that children are spanked, the higher the risk that those kids will start to defy their parents, become aggressive, experience mental health issues, exhibit anti-social behaviors, and/or develop cognitive difficulties.

Source: Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses.