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August/September 2002Vol. 3, No. 7Study Shows Spanking May be Harmful to Children

New research has shown that spanking may actually cause the behaviors it is meant to curb. While temporarily making children more compliant, corporal punishment raises the risk of children becoming aggressive and increases the likelihood of future antisocial, criminal, and delinquent behavior. In addition, spanking might also turn to child abuse according to the author of the study, Elizabeth Thompson Gershoff, a researcher at Columbia University's National Center for Children in Poverty.

Gershoff's study is based on an analysis of 88 studies spanning the latter half of the 20th century and quantifies the effects of spanking on 11 child behaviors. Gershoff recommends avoiding corporal punishment altogether, instead opting for more positive, nonphysical types of discipline. Surveys indicate that 94 percent of American parents spank their children by the time they are 3 or 4 years old.

Other researchers argue that spanking can be an effective punishment, but not appropriate as an initial technique. Robert Larzelere, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, states spanking may be beneficial if reasoning and nonphysical punishments do not work.

Gershoff's study and Larzelere's response were published in the July 2002 issue of Psychological Bulletin, a publication of the American Psychological Association.

Related Item

See "Study Examines Spanking Among Minnesota Parents" from the April 2002 issue of the Children's Bureau Express.