Study: Spanking kids leads to long-term bad behavior
August 14, 1997
Web posted at: 9:37 p.m. EDT (0137 GMT)
CHICAGO (CNN) -- In the long run, it turns out that sparing
the rod may not spoil the child after all. Indeed, according
to a study released Thursday, the opposite may be true:
Spanking a child may produce long-term ill effects.
Based on interviews with the mothers of about 3,000 children,
researcher Murray Straus of the University of New Hampshire
found that corporal punishment is counterproductive,
resulting in more antisocial behavior by children in later
Parents may not see this "boomerang" effect because it
happens over weeks or months, according to the study, which
appears in the latest issue of the American Medical
Association's Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.
"Spanking chips away at the child's liking for, and trust of,
the parent," Straus said. "One has to look at long-term
effects of these things."
Researchers analyzed survey data from 807 mothers of children
ages 6 to 9, taken in 1988 and 1990. They compared levels of
antisocial behavior among spanked and unspanked children over
The more spanking a child received at the beginning of the
study, the higher level of antisocial behavior at the end,
according to the researchers.
Antisocial behavior was defined as cheating, lying,
disobedience at school, breaking things deliberately, not
feeling sorry after misbehaving or not getting along with
The study found that the higher levels of antisocial behavior
were independent of other traits that could affect that
behavior, such as a family's socioeconomic status and the
amount of support parents give their children.
Parental warmth and support do tend to lessen the effects of
spanking but do not cancel them, Straus said.
The results of this study are likely to be debated, because
previous research has shown that 90 percent of U.S. parents
spank their children. A majority of pediatricians and
psychologists also do not discourage occasional corporal
In addition, corporal punishment in the classroom is still
legal in 23 states.
Many parents spank only as a last resort and say they feel
horrible about it afterward. Some would rather use other
forms of discipline, if only they would work. Parenting
classes offer advice about alternatives, because occasional
swats can sometimes lead to harsher hitting.
Psychologist Irwin Hyman, author of the book "The Case
Against Spanking," agrees with Straus' study.
"There is never a reason to spank a child, period," Hyman
said. "There's no other place in society where someone can
... smack another person. So why should we be able to do this
But Ted and Andrea Fouriezo, who have four children under the
age of 6, defend spanking as a necessary means of setting and
enforcing limits with their kids.
"We feel that the parents have to be the parents," Andrea
Fouriezo said. "You can't let the children run circles around
you, which they will. Kids want to push their limits."
"There (are) also times where they're trying to hurt
themselves and we just have to stop them, especially when
they were (at) the toddler stage -- touching hot plates or
trying to get themselves up on the stove," said Ted Fouriezo.
Correspondent Pat Etheridge and Reuters contributed to this