Spanking hurts kids in the long run, too

10/23/13
 
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by Michael MacKenzie,

from CNN,
10/23/13:

In my first job in high school stocking the shelves with fresh produce at the grocery store, I often saw parents struggling with misbehaving children. Some would scream, while others would spank their kids.

It was always awkward to witness, because I felt sympathy for both sides. Were the children choosing to act out because the parents were busy and stressed buying food? But surely the parents could think of a better way to handle a defiant child?

I’m now a researcher at the Columbia School of Social Work and a specialist in child welfare, and I have just completed a study of this very issue. Columbia colleagues Eric Nicklas, Jane Waldfogel and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn and I published findings in the journal Pediatrics (PDF) this week showing that the children who are spanked by their parents are at greater risk for later problems in both vocabulary and behavior.

We found that children who were spanked by their mothers at age 5, even relatively infrequently, went on to have higher levels of behavior problems at age 9, even after taking into account other family risk factors that also affect child behavior. Given the chicken vs. egg cyclical nature of this, we also controlled for earlier problems with the children to ensure that it wasn’t just that kids who acted out were simply being spanked more.

And 5-year-olds who were spanked frequently, defined as two or more times a week, by their fathers also went on to have lower vocabulary scores at age 9, even after controlling for an array of other risk factors and earlier child vocabulary. This is an important finding, because few studies in this area have examined effects on cognitive development.

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