While the appropriateness of spanking a child to teach them discipline has always been a hot-button issue, parents around the world still use it to set their unruly kids straight.
However, if you think that a good smacking actually helps children in some way, you might want to reconsider your parenting methods. A new meta-analysis of five decades of research suggests hitting children can lead them to being more defiant while causing mental health problems later in life.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, explains spanking as “hitting a child on their buttocks or extremities using an open hand.” The researchers tested adults, who were spanked as children, for some long-term effects and found the more they were spanked, the more likely they were to exhibit antisocial behavior.
“Spanking children to correct misbehavior is a widespread practice, yet one shrouded in debate about its effectiveness and even its appropriateness,” the researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan stated in the study. “The meta-analyses presented here found no evidence that spanking is associated with improved child behavior and rather found spanking to be associated with increased risk of 13 developmental outcomes.”
The researchers reviewed 111 studies, which included 160,927 children, to measure the effects of spanking.
The negative outcomes of hitting a child include aggression, antisocial behavior, externalizing problems, internalizing problems, mental health problems, negative relationships with parents, lower moral internalization, lower cognitive ability and lower self-esteem, according to the report.
“Parents who use spanking, practitioners who recommend it and policymakers who allow it might reconsider doing so given that there is no evidence that spanking does any good for children and all evidence points to the risk of it doing harm,” the study concluded.
Disciplinary spanking is still a form of child abuse, even if parents don’t intend to actually harm them. If this study is any indication, parents who hit their kids are doing them more harm than good.