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Spanked Children More Likely to Be Aggressive

By Denise Reynolds

A new study from the Tulane University School of Public Health has added to the reasons to permanently stop spanking as a form of punishment for young children.  Children who were spanked frequently at age three were more likely to be aggressive when they were five, the study found.

Other studies have linked spanking children with lower IQ scores, increased anxiety and behavior problems, higher risk of violent or criminal behavior in adulthood, depression or substance abuse.  According to pediatrician Mary Ellen Renna, spanking a child “makes him feel insecure and fearful, which leads to aggressive behavior.”  It also models an inappropriate response to anger.

Lead author Catherine Taylor and her colleagues surveyed 2500 mothers across the United States about their discipline within the previous month.  Nearly half (45.6%) said they had not used spanking, 27.9 percent reported spanking 1 to 2 times, and 26.5 admitted to spanking more than twice.  The mothers were then interviewed two years later and the ones who had reported spanking more frequently had children with higher levels of aggression, such as arguing, fighting, defiance, and temper tantrums.

The results held true even when researchers accounted for potentially confounding factors such as the presence of aggression within the family, neglect, maternal stress or depression and drug or alcohol use.

The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking children for any reason.  Ms. Taylor says, “There are ways to discipline children effectively that do not involve hitting them.”  Some alternates include time outs lasting one minute for each year of age or withholding privileges.  Another tactic is to reward good behavior with praise or a reward system, such as a sticker chart.

The study will be published in the May issue of the journal Pediatrics.