Study: Spanking a child could lead to future aggression

A new study examining the effects of spanking could change how some parents approach discipline. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON – Spanking a child is supposed to curb bad behavior, but a new study shows it may do just the opposite.

The study published Monday is the journal “Pediatrics” suggests spanking a child could increase the risk of bad behavior down the road.

“Spanking does make the kid stop,” the lead author, Michael J. MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia School of Social Work, told The New York Times.

“It gives the immediate feedback that it’s working. But the goal is to have kids regulate themselves over time. And in that, spanking fails.”

The study examined 1,933 parents when their children were 3 years old and again when the children were 5, asking about the parents’ spanking habits. The children were tested again at 9 years old to determine behavior, aggression and vocabulary skills.

Researchers found that maternal spanking at age 5 was significantly associated with greater aggression and rule-breaking as well as lower scores on vocabulary tests at age 9.

Fathers’ spanking at age 5 was associated with lower vocabulary scores at age 9, according to the research.

The data considered numerous variables such as a child’s age and birth weight, aggression and vocabulary skills at a younger age as well as a family’s income and race.

The study found that 57 percent of mothers and 40 percent of fathers engaged in spanking when children were 3. At 5 years old, 52 percent of mothers and 33 percent of fathers spanked their children.

“These results demonstrate negative effects of spanking on child behavioral and cognitive development,” the study notes.

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