Review of 50 Years of Spanking Research Reveals Sobering Truth


In a recently published meta analysis in the Journal of Family Psychology, developmental psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff and University of Michigan professor Andrew Grogan-Kaylor sift through 75 studies, for a total data pool of nearly 161,000 children, and find “no evidence that spanking is associated with improved child behavior.”

What’s more, the analysis finds evidence that spanking is associated with troubling outcomes — like increased aggression, increased anti-social behavior, and mental health problems later in life….

But what about the fact that “correlation doesn’t equal causation?”  Dr. Gershoff responds powerfully by saying…

…if in the real world — spanking was good for kids, some of these studies should have found that and found an effect in the other direction. [Only one study of the 75 found an effect linking spanking to a positive outcome.  In order for that conclusion to be right, that spanking is good for kids, we have to have some correlations in that direction, but we don’t. All the correlations are in the negative direction.

So, are parents who spank supposed to feel like awful people who ruined their kids?  Again, Gershoff responds…

Let’s be realistic, most people who were spanked were spanked as children. And as everyone likes to tell me, they turned out okay. And me included. I think I turned out okay despite being spanked.

The question is: Did other things counter balance the spanking?

I don’t think we learn to be good people who care about others by being hit. … [We learn from our parents,] who talk to us about the value and the morality of sharing with other people and taking turns and thinking about others’ feelings.

We know now that children need to be in car seats and seat belts. But those of us who grew up in the 1970s were in cars that didn’t even have seat belts. Do I think my parents were bad parents for not putting me in a seat belt? No, because no one understood how important seat belts were to protecting children. Do I think I “turned out okay” because I wasn’t in a seat belt? No — I think I was lucky. It’s the same with spanking.

We turned out okay in spite of being spanked, not because of it.  READ THE FULL INTERVIEW

For more tips on effective, gentle discipline, check out Parenting with Grace: The Catholic Parents’ Guide to Raising (almost) Perfect Kids.  


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