“Spare the rod and spoil the child.” It is an old adage that still finds resonance in the present world. Parents often spank their children in order to discipline them. They feel that spanking will teach them a lesson which will help in improving their future behavior. Incidence of spanking or slapping the children remains high in the U.S. with almost 35% to 90% parents admitting to have used corporal punishment to instill good values in their children.
However, according to the recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics, parents should be encouraged to find out means other than spanking to manage undesired behavior in their children.
A recent study by Catherine A Taylor along with her colleagues from the Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana has concluded that children who are spanked more frequently at the age of three tend to become more aggressive by the time they turn five. A cohort of around 2,500 mothers was enquired about the frequency of spanking of their children. Other confounding factors such as maternal child physical maltreatment, psychological maltreatment, and neglect, intimate partner aggression victimization, stress, depression, substance use, and consideration of abortion were also taken into consideration. While 45.6% women denied any spanking, 27.9% agreed to spanking their children one or two times in the past one month, while 26.5% reported spanking more than twice. Mothers with other confounding factors were found to spank their children more often. However, even after adjusting these factors, the study found that frequent spanking at the age of three increased aggressive behavior by the age of five. Such children were found to argue or scream more, were cruel, destroyed things and fought with their peers more.
A meta-analysis done in 2002 showed that children who received corporal punishment were more likely to develop antisocial behavior and mental health problems later on. According to Dr. Taylor, children corrected by means other than spanking stand a better chance of being healthier and behaving better in later life.