Study: Spanking children my lead to anti-social behavior and mental problems in adulthood

A massive study of 160,000 children over 50 years concluded that spanking is ineffective as a form of punishment.

Experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, USA recently concluded the biggest meta-analysis on spanking, taking into account studies spanning 50 years! A meta-analysis is a study of studies conducted on that topic. It takes into account a massive amount of data and tries to see if the conclusions of those studies hold true on a larger scale.

In this meta-analysis on spanking, more than 160,000 children were taken into account, over the course of 50 years worth of studies. And, the experts reached a startling conclusion - even though spanking and physical abuse are viewed as two separate entities by parents, the effects caused by both are on similar lines, just to a varying degree.

Spanking is ineffective

The researchers reached a conclusion that would baffle most of the parents. According to them, spanking is totally ineffective. It does not 'make' the child understand anything other than the fact that he is in pain. It leads to defiance in their behavior, and this may not truly dissuade them from doing what got them a spanking in the first place.

Dr Elizabeth Gershoff is an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin. She explains the results of the study,

“We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

Simply put, your child may not act out in front of you. But as soon as your back turns, he will be back to his antics. Spanking is not going to teach him any valuable life lesson. And for most normal parents, that is the end objective of spanking.

Spanking has long-term consequences

Not only is spanking ineffective, it has long-term consequences. It is seen from the study that children who receive regular spanking end up having increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties. THe anti-social behavior and mental health problems may persist even in adulthood. And these adults support corporal punishment when they grow up - probably why spanking is passed on from generation to generation.

How to admonish your child without spanking

Moms and dads, we can now safely say that spanking is at the very least useless. So, the big question is, how to get the child to listen to you without raising a proverbial finger?

Luckily, behavioral experts give us the solution in the form of child psychology. It is seen that children accept the carrot and the stick approach easily. However, the stick is out of the question, so the punishment needs to be replaced by disciplining. And this is supported by the Psychologists who presented at the American Psychological Association’s 123rd Annual Convention.

According to Dr Robert Larzelere, PhD, of Oklahoma State University, there are three ways of dealing with young defiant children. And they are useful in particular cases. So parents can use these effectively in a combination.

1# Compromise

Offering a compromise is one of the ways parents can deal with the child. The child should see a benefit from the compromise, for instance, "take a bath and we can go to the beach."

When to use it

This is to be used in one-off circumstances when you are really out of patience, time, and/or ideas. It works in any type of situation and is an immediate hit.

When not to use it

It is useless if you use it time and again. Parents reported an increase in defiant and anti-social behavior if this was used too frequently. So, use it like chocolates - one in a while, to set the mood right.

2# Reasoning

Reasoning is the next best effective technique when it comes to immediately diffusing the situation. It is to be used in mildly annoying behavior, say the child is trying to negotiate something improper. For instance, my nephew once wanted to wear his winter jacket to Fairprice. Now, this jacket was purchased for a trip to Japan and was totally inappropriate for Singaporean weather. His mom reasoned with him, diffusing the situation.

When to use it

This is useful when the child is not over-tired, is mature enough to understand and can be reasoned with.

When not to use it

In the middle of a tantrum. It will get you nowhere and you will end up being frustrated.

3# Disciplining

Here, spanking is not an option. You may use your own brand of disciplining - slightly sterner voice, widening eyes, whatever works for you. At times, lowering your voice can be even more effective. Try it sometime! In addition, you can use timeouts. The concept of a timeout is to place the child in a corner without any distractions till he calms himself up. It is not a 'place of shame'. It is just a place to press his reset button.

When to use it

When reasoning is not going to work - toddlers, over-excited children, over-tired children

When not to use it

When the child is too young to understand the concept of 'consequence'.

Moms and dads, use these techniques in combination. And forget the adage about sparing the rod. You are not going to spoil the child by doing that!

Republished with permission from: theAsianParent Singapore