Spanking and other forms of physical punishment toward children are now banned in 62 nations around the globe.
Yet, this increasingly disproved child-raising practice remains legal in all 50 U.S. states with 19 states allowing physical punishment in schools. American children are far from an isolated group – 63% of children ages 2-4 worldwide are regularly subjected to physical punishment by parents or other caregivers.
A new study by an international group of scientists located in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States underscores what much research previously has already discovered – that physical punishment of children does more harm than good. In fact, this new study details that physical punishment not only is not effective against preventing child misbehavior, but predicts increases in misbehavior over time.
The study, a review of previous research, only examined studies involving physical punishment that did not constitute child physical abuse. The majority of studies reviewed – 61 of 69 – were conducted in the U.S.
The study found that physical punishment of children correlates strongly with an increased risk of behavior problems in that child as well as an increased risk that the child could experience future abuse or neglect. These negative outcomes occurred no matter the child’s gender, race, or ethnicity, or the overall parenting style of the child’s caregivers. A higher frequency of physical punishment increased the elevated risk of these outcomes further.
Published in The Lancet on June 28, this new study was funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the UK Economic and Social Research Council.