Spanking: New Study Says It Causes Aggressive Behavior in Kids

Posted April 21, 2010 by

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If you’re of a certain age, you were probably spanked as a child. It was the most powerful tool that every parent had at their very fingertips — the “big gun.” I was spanked as a kid, in fact, and so was my husband. I don’t think it taught me to behave better — it just taught me not to get caught, frankly. So when we had our son, we decided we wouldn’t do it, mostly because it seemed like spanking Alex would only teach him to resort to physical violence when he was upset or angry. Also, a lot of parents appear to spank out of anger — so we reasoned that they were just role modeling physical aggression to their kids. Our thinking was, “If we spank our child, won’t that make it easier for him to hit other kids?”

And in fact, a new study that came out this month from Tulane University said exactly that:  spanking kids makes them more aggressive in the long run. It went on to say that children who are spanked have lower IQs, and that frequent spanking may lead to anxiety and a higher risk of violent and/or criminal behavior, depression, and excessive alcohol use in later life.

The American Academy of Pediatrics also strongly opposes striking children for any reason, and recommends giving kids timeouts, withholding privileges and using logical consequences to help improve kids’ behavior. 

My mom, who is 75 and from the generation that grew up going out to the wood shed to get a “switching,” thinks my husband and my stance on spanking is strange. “But how will you get him to listen to you,” she sputtered when I first told her our decision not to spank Alex. And I understand — all the moms and dads of her generation spanked their kids, and they were probably spanked even more frequently when they were kids themselves.

Even though there have been times I have wanted to spank my son (I won’t lie) I’ve so far been able to take a deep breath and think it through. The way I’ve always seen it is that there are more effective ways to discipline than spanking.  Even my mom is starting to come around now. “You don’t spank?!” has been replaced by: “I know you don’t spank…and maybe that’s a good thing.”

Where do you stand on spanking? Do you agree or disagree?


Elisabeth Wilkins was the editor of Empowering Parents and the mother of an 10-year-old son. Her work has appeared in national and international publications, including Mothering, Motherhood (Singapore), Hausfrau, The Bad Mother Chronicles, and The Japan Times. Elisabeth holds a Masters in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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