What Science Actually Says About Spanking


As a mother who sometimes utilizes spanking as a back-up form of discipline for my toddlers and a healthy adult who was indeed spanked, I found this Huffpost article that suggests “science” is one-sided in this debate and proves without doubt that spanking is bad quite—interesting. The funny thing here is, when you read the studies being sourced to support this outlandish claim, you quickly find someone needs to brush up on their reading comprehension. Let’s have a closer look at what science has to say on spanking, shall we…

The first scientific masterpiece we have is sourced using a press release, do you ever wonder why these places link you press releases and not the actual study? Well, hint, it’s so you won’t read it. Here is a link straight to that 2010 study which is being reported as supporting that frequent spanking before age three leads to higher aggressive behavior by age five. Let me just give you a quote to sum things up on this study,

“Given the problem of potential unmeasured confounders, it is not possible to assert causality between CP (corporal punishment) and child aggression in observational studies such as this.“ (page 8)

What does that mean? This study was based off of self-reports from the mother, it also only factored the mother and not the father (meaning the father may or may not have been spanking those kids who supposedly were less aggressive.) In the study itself, it admits that this study does not prove a link. It says there could be one. Science doesn’t work on could be’s friends, and you can’t argue could be’s as factual science.

Moving on, now Huffpost says that spanking doesn’t even work according to science, but they just link two psychologist’s opinions. No studies. No facts. Hmmmm, I wonder how many experts we can find that do think spanking works. Since there is no “science” and only opinion here, some mention of studies with no links or even names, we’ll just keep on keepin’ on…

Next, we have a 2011 study that says spanking is a cycle, kids who are spanked, spank their kids. Why is that relevant if spanking is not scientifically bad? How does it prove by science it is? It doesn’t. Most kids do lots of things their parents did, it’s how they were raised.

Now, here’s a vague home-run for you, “The negative effects of physical punishment are colossal, well into adulthood.” Are they? The 2012 study they link is supposed to prove that true. Ah, curious, their sources leads to a not found page. Lucky for them, I read the study they quote, but it was published in 2011. You can read it here. This study suggested that, “harsh physical punishment was associated with increased odds of mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse/dependence, and several personality disorders.” (that’s quoted from the Huffpost article)

First of all, this study wasn’t even about “spanking.” The study sought to discover if harsh physical punishment had lasting psychological effects. To clarify, typical occasional spankings were NOT the subject of the study. Survey respondents were asked the following question, “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or another adult living in your house?” Only respondents who choose a rating above of “sometimes” or above were considered. Acts of severe maltreatment such as sexual abuse were excluded. The majority of parents I know who do spank, including me, do not push and shove their children.

In addition the study included, quoting again, “…acts of physical force beyond that of slapping, which some may consider more severe than that of ‘customary’ physical punishment (ie. spanking).” It actually says in the study in black and white that spanking was not the subject of the study. The study also only found a 6 percent occurrence of harsh physical punishment, and considering that 61 percent of parents condone spanking, you can see how claiming this study proved spanking as a form of discipline has negative psychological effects is a stretch of the facts. This study was also another self-reported and even retroactive study, which you may remember from point one why that’s not fact.

Then they post a retroactive analysis of studies not linked, but source an old Huffpost article (which man, you can trust that for sure) that actually appears to suggest some of the studies already defunked in this blog were analyzed. Most “facts” people claim prove spanking is harmful are observational and tragically flawed in almost every case by admission of the actual researchers. (You find this in “discussion” at the end in most cases.)

What else does science say Huffpost? “Spanking actually alters kids’ brains.” Let me just stop to laugh hysterically. First line of their source, “Harsh corporal punishment (HCP) during childhood is a chronic, developmental stressor associated with depression, aggression and addictive behaviors.” Hmmm, what did this study consider harsh corporal punishment I wonder…was it spanking? “We defined harsh CP (HCP) as a severe form of CP, in which an object (e.g., belt, paddle, hair brush) was used” Oh, so again, we’re not talking about spanking per se, we’re talking about hitting kids with shit. Got it. Just to clarify, “Results from this study apply to HCP, they do not apply to exposure to ordinary forms of CP” What were ordinary forms of CP according to this study again? “Spanking with the hand.” This study also only involved 55 people, 22 of which were the control group. Other factors were noted as possible explanations such as poverty level in childhood and other abuse in childhood. Science says what?

We can just throw out the CNN article they link there at the end which just rehashes all the non-factual studies they just misrepresented.

The bottom line?
Science doesn’t say jack diddley on spanking. I’m not saying you should beat your kids with sticks, certainly there is proof here that form of punishment is harmful, but spanking as the 61 percent of American parents use it, a bare hand, is still a matter of parental choice with no factual evidence to support or deter it.

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