Does spanking create dumber, more aggressive kids?

A new study from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University found that children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and did worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who were not spanked.

HealthDay News reports:

” ‘Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child,’ said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. ‘Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children’s aggression at age 2.’ “

The study, which is published in the September/October issue of “Child Development” examined data on 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families. The data included parents’ reports about their children’s behavior, their use of spanking, as well as home visits by trained observers to document parent-child interactions at ages 1, 2 and 3.

“About one-third of mothers of 1-year-olds reported they or someone in their household had spanked their child in the last week, while about half of the mothers of 2- and 3-year-olds reported that their child had been spanked.”

“The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds was 2.6 per week, while the average for 2-year-olds was nearly three.”

“The study found that children who were spanked at age 1 had more aggressive behaviors at age 2 and performed worse on measures of thinking abilities at age 3.”

“Being spanked at age 2, however, did not predict more aggressive behaviors at age 3, possibly because the spanking had begun at age 1 and by age 2 the kids were already more aggressive, Berlin said.”

Apparently just scolding your kids doesn’t increase their risk of bad behavior, as long as the mother is generally attentive and supportive.

In a related story ABC News examined how being raised by abusive parents affects your parenting. According to ABC News, studies show that one in three people who were abused as children will grow up to become an abuser.

“For more than a month last year, ABC News followed three parents in Florida who are trying to overcome those odds. Cameras rolled as the parents struggled to deal with their kids monster tantrums and meltdowns that could test anyone’s patience. The families volunteered for a mentoring program for at-risk parents called Parent Aide, run by the Toledo, Ohio-based National Exchange Club Foundation.”

PrimeTime on ABC showed the footage last night of how the families were handling their children’s discipline and how they could do a better job. The online story also reviews what the parents were doing wrong and how else they could have handled the situations.

In another related story on ABC News, a doctor offered 10 TIPS TO DEAL WITH DEFIANT CHILDREN, and I found them very interesting. Obviously they don’t want you spanking a child or even using time-outs repeatedly. The big thing this doctor recommends is just recognizing good behavior from your kids and constantly pointing it out.

Dr. Alan Kazdin of Yale University Parenting Center and Child Conduct Clinic, says in the ABC News story:

“Positive attention to good behavior can be a smile, a touch or praise — or all three — but do it right away and be specific about what it was the child did right every time. ‘Great job taking your dishes to the sink!’ works better than ‘Great job!’

I’m actually going to try his tips and email them to Michael. I like the idea of telling them frequently when they are good (I do it now but probably not enough!).

What do you think of each of these stories?

Do you buy that spanking at 1 or under will increase the child’s chances of behaving badly and doing poorly on cognitive tests? Did you notice how often these little 1-year-olds were getting spanked?

Do you spank? How young did you start spanking? How often do you spank?

Do you believe that abused children are more likely to abuse?

What did you think of the coping tips offered in the second story, as well as the 10 tips offered by the Yale professor?

202 comments Add your comment

Mr. Mom

October 13th, 2009
10:24 am

This topic interests me and I’ve done a lot of reading on it. I’d gladly give up my right to smack, spank, hit my kid, whatever you call it, and ban spanking altogether, because I believe it might prevent a child somewhere from being abused or killed in the name of discipline.


October 22nd, 2009
8:58 pm

Our prisons are overflowing with individuals who were not spanked, individuals who ruled at home as children and individuals who were highly praised at home for good behavior but rarely disciplined for bad behavior. Disciplined by talking and talking and talking after repeated inappropriate behavior. America has produced children who lack showing respect for all and children who manipulate their parents and authority to get their way. I feel sorry for these children but most of all I feel sorry for their parents and anyone they come in contact with.