Apparently we needed another spanking study to make parents behave

Apr 26, 2016 at 12:13 p.m. ET
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If this isn't a reason for parents to stop spanking, not sure what is. In what's being called one of the most comprehensive analysis on spanking ever, new research, which has taken five decades' worth of studies into account, has found what many parents (but apparently not enough) have long suspected: Spanking doesn't work. In fact, it does just the opposite of what parents who do spank hope it will do. And as a really terrible bonus, it has the potential to emotionally and mentally mess up your kid.

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Researchers examined the effects of spanking — which was defined as an "open-handed hit on the behind or extremities" and not what most Americans would deem "potentially abusive behaviors" (insert perplexed face) — and found that it often results in "increased antisocial behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties." The study also found that the more kids were spanked, the more likely they were to defy their parents, which of course is the exact opposite of what spanking parents want. People who were spanked as children also were more likely to spank their own kids, which evidently is one of the main reasons parents spank in the first place.

Disturbing, to say the least.

These recent findings cited a 2014 UNICEF report, which found that up to 80 percent of parents around the world spank their children (80 percent!) despite the fact that there is no clear evidence that spanking children produces positive effects. In fact, even though most moms and dads would put spanking in a different category of physical abuse, they're both associated with the same harmful child outcomes to nearly the same strength. Soooo... the big question is: Why are parents still spanking?

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According to research, some parents think spanking will make their children "nicer" and give them more socially desirable behaviors and attitudes. If this sounds completely contradictory, findings prove that yes, it is. Apparently, though, a percentage of parents who spank are under the assumption that the "physical pain of spanking, when accompanied by a message about behaving well," will produce desirable results. Time and time again, though, it's been scientifically proven that that's not the case. Here's what research has found will produce desirable behavior in children, though: parental warmth.

Studies show that parental warmth is linked to "friendliness, openness, kindness and sympathy for others" in children. Also — and this should go without saying — parents should model the behavior they wish to see in their kids. Remember the saying "monkey see, monkey do"? That adage goes double for toddlers, who are most often on the receiving end of corporal punishment. (Spanking in children peaks at age 3.) It's also worth noting that being kind and positive to your child after a spanking won't undo the damage. The two are mutually exclusive.

Any parent with young children knows how frustrating they can be, and it isn't surprising that moms and dads may have the urge to spank sometimes, as, more likely than not, it will stop the bad/frustrating/annoying behavior — in that moment. But as countless research has shown, it's doing much more long-term damage than any quick fix should be worth. Modeling good behavior, practicing positive reinforcement and, of course, being warm to our children have been proven to get the results all parents want.

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It may be the more difficult route, but who ever said parenting was easy?

Have you ever spanked your child?

Before you go, check out our slideshow below:

lunchbox napkin art
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