According to a newly published study in the journal Pediatrics, a child’s learning capabilities and behavior can be affected by spanking. The results of the study show that children aged 9, who were spanked more than twice every week, between the ages of 3 and 5, are more violent, and rule breaking, when compared to children that weren’t spanked in their early childhood. Furthermore, the children that were spanked, are more likely to have lower grades in language comprehension and vocabulary examinations.
Associate Professor Michael MacKenzie, from the Columbia University School of Social Work, in the United States, reports that their results show that not only the behavioral development of the children is affected, but also their cognitive development. Furthermore, the effects of spanking are long-lasting, and not short-term as many believe. Moreover, children who were spanked more than twice a week experienced stronger effects.
Precedent studies, such as one published earlier this year, in March, revealed that if a child who’s genetically inclined to have an aggressive behavior is spanked, there is a major risk that the child would become even more aggressive. Another study, published in July, shows that almost 7% of adults who suffer from cognitive and mental health disorders can be linked to the different types of physical punishment received during their childhood.
Currently, there are 32 countries around the world that prohibit the acts of physical punishment on children, be it by their parents or caregivers. However, physical punishment is still unrestricted in Canada and in the United States, even though the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) strongly advocates against physical punishment as a form of discipline.
The current study was done on more than 2,000 families from 20 different cities from the United States. For the study, the parents were asked how many times had they spanked their children during the past month, due to misbehavior. At the time of the interrogation, all of the children were aged between 3 and 5. Later on, the research team evaluated the children’s aggressive behavior and vocabulary skills when they were aged between 3 and 9.
According to the results, more than 55% of the mothers and approximately 40% of the fathers spanked their children at the age of 3. The percentages dropped to 52% and 33% for the parents of children aged 5. Children who were spanked by their mother’s were discovered to be more aggressive at the age of 9. researchers also suggest that the age of 5 is a very delicate age. Any kind of spanking coming from the mother’s side had an effect on the aggressive behavior of the children once they reached age 9. In comparison, children aged 3 when they received the physical punishment, were only discovered to be more aggressive if the physical punishment occurred more than twice a week.
Associate Professor Catherine Taylor, who has no implication in the current study, suggest that the results bring further evidence to the already existing evidence that physical punishment affects the future aggressive behavior of children. Furthermore, she notes that most parents only focus on the immediate effect of their actions, instead of the more important, distant effects. “The parent is inadvertently teaching the child that hitting, or being aggressive, is a way to solve problems.”, concluded Taylor.
However, physical punishment inflicted by the fathers appears to have no effect on the children’s later aggressive behavior. Nonetheless, it affected the children’s vocabulary skills, by the time they reached the age of 9. Children who were spanked by their fathers at the age of 5 scored poorly on the vocabulary tests they received at the age of 9. According to Taylor, these results show that instead of having an effect on aggressive behavior, the father’s spanking actions have long-term effects on the general success and academic performance of the children.
According to the research team, there is a high probability that the families who spend time spanking their children are less likely to spend time reading or guiding their children through their language development stage. MacKenzie says that their study also shows that the cognitive development problems could be a result of the stress caused by physical punishment.
Even though the current study suggest a possible link between physical punishment and a children’s ability to behave, and learn, it doesn’t necessarily show a cause-and-effect type of connection.