To spank or not to spank? This age-old parenting question elicits fierce debate among parents, psychologists and pediatricians. Surveys suggest that nearly half of U.S. parents have spanked their children as a disciplinary tactic, but many experts argue that this form of punishment—hitting a child on the bottom with an open hand—increases the risk that kids will develop emotional and behavioral problems. Other scientists counter that research on the issue is fraught with problems, making it impossible to draw black-and-white conclusions. A new meta-analysis addresses several of the most contentious points in the debate and concludes that spanking does pose risks, but differences of opinion persist.
In the meta-analysis, researchers Elizabeth Gershoff and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, respectively, evaluated 75 published studies on the relationship between spanking by parents and various behavioral, emotional, cognitive and physical outcomes among their kids. They found that spanking was associated with 13 out of a total of 17 negative outcomes they assessed, including increased aggression and behavioral and mental health problems as well as reduced cognitive ability and self-esteem.
As a further demonstration of the importance of careful statistical controls, Robert Larzelere, a psychologist at Oklahoma State University, and his colleagues reported in a 2010 study that grounding and psychotherapy are linked just as strongly to bad behavior as spanking is but that all the associations disappear with the use of careful statistical controls. It makes sense that disciplinary tactics used as responses to bad behavior will be associated with such behavior, Larzelere says, unless care is taken to control for children’s preexisting characteristics and temperaments.
Read the whole story: Scientific American