Opponents of spanking got a boost last week when a new Canadian study on corporal punishment was released. The study, which reviewed two decades of research on spanking, found that physical punishment has no positive long-term effects and many negative effects.
According to the report, children who are spanked are more likely to exhibit depression, aggression, anxiety, feelings of hopelessness, drug and alcohol use and general psychological maladjustment. Adults who have been spanked as children are more likely to become aggressive since they have seen adults solving problems aggressively.
“Virtually without exception, these studies found that physical punishment was associated with higher levels of aggression against parents, siblings, peers and spouses,” according to the report.
Imaging studies also show differences in the brains of children who are punished physically. Children who are spanked have less gray matter in regions of the brain connected with IQ. This may explain why children who are spanked tend to have lower IQs than their peers who are not.
The doctors suggest these negative effects are observed because spanking changes the child's relationship with the parent by disrupting the development of the emotional connection between the parent and the child.
Interestingly, studies have found when parents are given assistance to stop spanking as a form of punishment, their children's behavior improves.
For parents who don't want to use physical punishment, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the best way to discourage bad behaviors in children is to encourage good ones. Additional resources for parents interested in this topic can be found at The Center for Effective Discipline.