The Impact Of Spanking On Children, According to the American Psychological Association

The impact of spanking on children, according to the American Psychological Association (APA), is a significant topic in the realm of child development and psychology. The APA’s stance is grounded in extensive research and scientific analysis, which offers a comprehensive understanding of the effects of spanking.

Prevalence of Spanking

Spanking remains a common disciplinary method in the United States. A significant portion of the population, 76% of men and 65% of women, believe that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a “good hard spanking.” This widespread acceptance underscores the cultural and societal norms surrounding this practice.

Effects of Spanking on Child Behavior

Contrary to popular belief, spanking does not result in more compliant behavior in children. Research has shown that spanking is not effective in achieving short-term compliance, nor does it reduce aggression or antisocial behavior. In fact, it is not linked with long-term compliance or the internalization of morals in children​​.

Further, spanking is associated with worse, not better, behavior in children. Meta-analyses have revealed that children who are spanked exhibit significantly more aggression and antisocial behavior problems compared to those who are not spanked. None of the studies in these analyses showed a link between spanking and improved behavior​​.

Unintended Outcomes of Spanking

Spanking has been linked with several unintended and adverse outcomes, which include:

  • Mental Health Problems: Children who are spanked may face higher risks of developing mental health issues.
  • Difficult Relationships with Parents: The practice can strain the parent-child relationship.
  • Lower Self-Esteem: Spanking can negatively impact a child’s self-perception and confidence.
  • Lower Academic Performance: There is an association between spanking and reduced academic achievement​​.

Long-Term Consequences in Adulthood

The repercussions of spanking extend into adulthood. Adults who were spanked as children report higher instances of mental health problems and antisocial behavior. They are also more likely to have positive attitudes about and use corporal punishment with their own children, perpetuating a cycle of physical discipline across generations​​.

Spanking and Physical Abuse

Spanking is a form of hitting, and its association with child outcomes is alarmingly significant. The more parents resort to spanking, the greater the risk of injury or abuse to the children. The link between spanking and child outcomes is nearly two-thirds the size of the association between abusive or injurious hitting and the same outcomes. Notably, a substantial percentage of physical abuse cases in Canada began as corporal punishment aimed at correcting perceived misbehavior in children​​.

Conclusion

The APA’s findings and the broader consensus in psychological research suggest that spanking is an ineffective and potentially harmful disciplinary practice. The evidence points to a range of negative outcomes, both immediate and long-term, highlighting the need for alternative, non-physical methods of child discipline that promote healthy development and positive behavior.

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