Children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who are spared the punishment, new research shows.
Though the negative effects of spanking were "modest," the study adds to a growing body of literature that's finding spanking isn't good for children.
"Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child," said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. "Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children's aggression at age 2," reports HealthDay News.
The study is published in the September/October issue of Child Development.
Using data collected in two longitudinal studies—one of almost 500 children who were followed from ages 5 to 16, the other of more than 250 children followed from ages 5 to 15—the researchers sought to answer questions of how discipline changes during childhood and adolescence, and whether there are factors within families and children that are associated with these changes.
They find that parents typically adjust the way they discipline their children in response to their children's growing cognitive abilities, using less physical discipline (spanking, slapping, hitting with an object) over time. As children grow older, physical discipline becomes less developmentally appropriate. However, when parents' use of physical discipline continues through childhood, by the time their children are teens, they're more likely to have behavior problems. Teens of parents who stop using physical discipline when their children are young are less likely to have these behavior problems, reports ScienceDaily.
According to Los Angeles Times, the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1998 issued a recommendation that parents find means to correct children's behavior other than corporal punishment. A large body of evidence suggests the practice is seldom effective and may have negative effects. But some in the African American community have defended the practice, citing research showing that while spanking may make white children more aggressive, the practice makes African American children less so.