Clear Evidence: Spanking Will Harm Kids

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As a first-time parent, I was completely surprised one day when I was nearly overcome by the urge to spank my two-year-old.

After a challenging hour or two at a crowded mall, he purposely pulled a pile of T-shirts off a shelf in a tantrum. I should have known better than to take a tired toddler shopping for clothes. But that was cold comfort as I stood in the middle of a crowded store watching my son throw merchandise on the floor.

At the time, I was lucky to have read some of the research on physical punishment.

Because—as I learned that day—it takes a lot of knowledge to overcome the feelings I had toward my little guy in that moment. That’s why I think it’s important to share this new evidence regarding the impact of physical punishment on children.

Earlier this year, researchers from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan conducted a sweeping systematic review of more than 50 years of research on spanking that involved more than 160,000 children. It is the most complete analysis to date of how spanking affects children.

For starters, the paper defined spanking as “an open-handed hit on the behind, arm, or legs.” The review found that about 80 percent of children are spanked or receive some sort of physical discipline as a punishment. Overwhelmingly, the review found that spanking is an ineffective way to discipline children and has harmful effects—nearly as harmful as more serious physical abuse such as punching.

The review found spanking to be associated with more than a dozen negative outcomes.

Over the short term, spanking was found to harm the relationship between a parent and child and lead to anti-social behavior, depression, increased aggressive misbehavior, and low self-esteem among children. Over the long term, the research found that spanking leads to anti-social behavior, mental illnesses, and anxiety later in life—and adults who were spanked as children were also more likely to use physical punishment with their own children.

The question of whether to use physical punishment on children has been on the minds of parents and educators for decades, but this new research clearly demonstrates, without a question, the negative consequences of spanking.

“When parents use physical discipline with their children, they are modeling the use of aggression as a means of controlling the behavior of others,”

says Jane Powers, a Cornell researcher at the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research who specializes in the impact on violence on youth. “Consequently, the child learns to use violence to get what she wants. In spite of the research that demonstrates that spanking is associated with higher rates of child aggression, most parents in the U.S. approve of and use corporal punishment to discipline their children.”

In our family, my husband and I have agreed that spanking is not a form of discipline we want to use. For those times when our frustration levels rise, we find it helps to have coping mechanisms in place.

Two strategies that work for us are taking a break from parenting when needed—whether asking for help from the other parent, or just stepping into the other room for a few deep breaths—and trying to see the humor in everything, including that formerly neatly-folded stack of shirts strewn across a store floor.


  1. Yollys Morales

    January 14, 2017 at 11:37 pm

    Thats ridiculous if nowadays these parents really spank their kids we will not have so many problems as we do in this world with people

    • Elizabeth Lovern

      January 15, 2017 at 1:23 am

      Perhaps you could take a look at the research and conclude that the issues with people are because they were spanked, not because they weren’t. Scientific studies are saying that it’s common and harmful, so it would be logical to conclude we would have less people issues, less violence, and more respect and kindness.

    • Penny Green

      January 15, 2017 at 4:46 am

      Well scientific studies many times are wrong! And in a few more years another scientific study will probably conclude a little spanking on the butt is harmless! I have see scientific studies in my life that warned of the danger of coffee,eggs,butter etc only later they come out to say the exact opposite! Too much of anything is bad! Moderation and common sense is the ticket! I don’t take it to the bank what scientist say about child rearing! Talk to some loving Grandparents for the best advice!

    • Staci Humphrey Yocom

      January 15, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      There is a huge difference between spanking and abuse. Sounds as though the studies do not differentiate between the two.

    • Angelina June Watson

      January 15, 2017 at 7:15 pm

      They did differentiate between the 2. If you have read it you’d know that. Now you’re speaking about the young adults of today, who were raised with spankings, that are out here doing all the things you’ve seen in the news. This generation of people who are trying not to spank have not yet grown up to determine how they behave. Do not try to argue facts, done over MANY years of studies to justify your choice to spank. No body is saying you’re a terrible parent, they are simply presenting facts, take them or leave them. I for one am trying to be the absolute best mother for my child, I have spanked my child, and after reading this and many other studies I’m trying to avoid spankings at all costs.

    • Staci Humphrey Yocom

      January 15, 2017 at 9:01 pm

      I have read studies which do not. A significant number of the young adults today were NOT raised being spanked or disciplined in any which is with they behave so poorly and believe they should have no consequences for their actions Angelina June Watson

  2. Amber Lee Barragan

    January 14, 2017 at 11:49 pm

    Bubba Tony Barragan

  3. Nancy Sabadin-Armsden

    January 14, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    I was spanked (not beaten – huge difference ) and I am fine – a fully functioning independent adult. No criminal record either.

    • Clanro Kids World

      January 15, 2017 at 12:00 am


    • Chula Y Danny Vieques

      January 15, 2017 at 12:05 am

      Amen me too

    • Elizabeth Lovern

      January 15, 2017 at 1:19 am

      I’m glad you’re okay. But a lot of us aren’t 🙁
      Perhaps you could see that even though you were not psychologically harmed, these scientific studies are saying that most children are actually harmed by spanking.

    • Kendra Hill

      January 15, 2017 at 2:33 am

      The majority aren’t. There is a difference between spanking and abuse.

    • Nikki Paash Khan

      January 15, 2017 at 7:01 am

      I second that… difference between spanking n abuse. I was spanked.. no psychological damage to me. Hold a medical degree.. and I can tell you.. don’t believe in what all your read on Internet.

    • Milka Concepcion

      January 15, 2017 at 7:23 am

      Elizabeth Lovern you were beaten.. That’s different, so sorry i get you.

    • Lita Scutt

      January 15, 2017 at 2:35 pm

      Yes, a spank is not like throwing a punch. Discipline is not abuse.
      It’s not about trying to hurt physically.

    • Jessica Hall

      January 15, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      “it’s not about trying to hurt physically?” Then what is it? Aggression, emotional dominance? Instilling fear? Smh…all of the above.

    • Gabrielle Gabriel

      January 15, 2017 at 7:33 pm


  4. Clanro Kids World

    January 15, 2017 at 12:00 am

    Unbelievable :p

  5. Rebecca Brown

    January 15, 2017 at 12:09 am

    And not spanking your kids leads to a world full of entitled buttholes.

    • Angela Wesley

      January 15, 2017 at 12:21 am

      That part

    • Kathleen Anderson

      January 15, 2017 at 1:32 am

      YOU ARE SO SO WRONG…………….

    • Rebecca Brown

      January 15, 2017 at 2:13 am

      And I bet your kids are perfect angels.

    • Kendra Hill

      January 15, 2017 at 2:31 am

      Kathleen Anderson

    • Heidi Weston

      January 15, 2017 at 5:59 pm

      Yes it does. Look at the young adults now who think they are owed everything and don’t have to work for anything. My kids were spanked and so was I. I turned out to be a fabulous person and so are my kids.

  6. Jennifer Atcheson

    January 15, 2017 at 12:11 am

    I don’t think any parent sets out intentionally spanking their kid. How about some articles with alternative strategies it may be more helpful…..

  7. Tia Rogers

    January 15, 2017 at 12:14 am


  8. Yanet Montero Mayeta

    January 15, 2017 at 12:15 am

    Of course it does!! It hurts!!

  9. Susana Sh

    January 15, 2017 at 12:32 am

    What’s really shocking is that certain schools are allowed to spank children…

  10. Kim Marsh

    January 15, 2017 at 12:47 am

  11. Kathleen Anderson

    January 15, 2017 at 1:34 am


    • Karlie Graham Folsom

      January 15, 2017 at 3:01 am

      The majority of people do spank their dogs so??? There is a huge difference between spanking and beating

    • Lyndsey Martello-Zanolli

      January 15, 2017 at 3:23 am

      U r not raising your friends neighbors…. your raising your children who unfortunately has to learn what the world is like and they need guidance to kn what’s right n wrong and how to act to function in this horrible world. It must b balanced too. U can’t have what kids are today!!!!!

    • Sisi Su

      January 15, 2017 at 5:51 am

      There’s a fine line between spanking and abuse. I guess it’s ok for your children to step overall you. In my household I will not tolerate that.

  12. Pamela Thomas Boyette

    January 15, 2017 at 2:15 am

    Spare the rod spoil the child

  13. Sharon Johnson

    January 15, 2017 at 3:03 am

    You don’t discipline you hate your child. This will send them into adulthood thinking every behavior is accepted!

  14. Renee Kendle

    January 15, 2017 at 3:32 am

    We try other disciplines like time out, taking away a liked item or event, or pepper. But spare the rod spoil the child. If you dont discipline your child, you dont love them.

  15. Dustie N Jason Cooke

    January 15, 2017 at 4:21 am

    Before all this research and the very helpful google, how did we ever survive? Who knew I could not only diagnose myself medically and psychologically just by reading a article on the internet….

  16. Charles Lee

    January 15, 2017 at 5:01 am

    Spanking is effective, when it’s not abuse.

  17. Wally Welter

    January 15, 2017 at 5:13 am

    The adults I know who were not spanked as children are not as well adjusted as those who were!

  18. Larissa Ward Nichols

    January 15, 2017 at 5:15 am

    I was spanked as a child and I’m grateful my parents loved me enough to allow me to associate a little pain with certain behaviors. Which I then made different choices to not get a spanking. Oh and I loved my kids too and they are awesome productive adults today.
    Who love their mama!

  19. Eric Richmond

    January 15, 2017 at 6:14 am

    Proverbs 13:24
    New International Version
    Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

  20. Gabriela Meyer

    January 15, 2017 at 7:37 am

    Noel Meyer, this is for your friend show it to him please.

  21. Angelina June Watson

    January 15, 2017 at 9:01 am

    I love how people come on here arguing facts. These aren’t opnions, they are facts, compiled over years of research. Justify hitting you’re kids if you like, but you cannot argue facts to help you not feel guilty. My daughter has had a handful of spanks, I hate myself for it, they were for very dangerous situations where I needed her to really grasp the severity of the situation. But I do not justify them, it’s not okay, I fight myself from physical discipline, and I will not argue facts to make myself feel better about my faults.

    • Lita Scutt

      January 15, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      You sound like a dedicated mom. Your guilt is unnecessary. Shake it off. Raising children is NOT a science. The human spirit/ soul can not be measured.

    • Angelina June Watson

      January 15, 2017 at 7:11 pm

      Thank you Lita Scutt <3

    • Amanda Spicer

      January 15, 2017 at 9:03 pm


    • Babett Horn

      January 16, 2017 at 12:46 am

      Angelina June Watson if you, after observing and accessing situations have determined YOU should not have spanked your child then NOPE you should not. However for parents who access the situation beforehand and spank for disciplinary reasons, they should not be told they are wrong. I received a minimal of spankings because I knew what disciplinary action I’d received. My 3 daughter’s received very few for the same reason. All 3 are respectful, responsible adults. My 5 sisters and their children, same story.

    • Angelina June Watson

      January 16, 2017 at 1:00 am

      Hitting your child to get a point across should not be necessary. There should be enough communication within a parent child relationship to talk, explain, and come up with a form of punishment. I have spanked my child. I think everyone who is pro-spanking would have found them appropriate. But it’s not. And I think very very rare occasions would call for such an extreme.

    • Babett Horn

      January 16, 2017 at 2:26 am

      It’s not…For you. Make that choice, but when did it become the social norm to tell everyone else what they should do? As a society we’ve become robots. Read the article, listen to MSM and do what “they” tell you. Why do we not think for ourselves! ? I’m so thankful I’m 52 and don’t give in to the nonsense. I’ve taught my daughter’s to think for themselves and I’m so happy they do because they teach my grand daughters to think for themselves as well

  22. Kayla Brown

    January 15, 2017 at 1:43 pm

    This article implies that parents always spank their children out of emotion and cannot seem to control their own behavior…

  23. Tiffany Rios

    January 15, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    Do not agree!

  24. Ciarah Gonzalez

    January 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    You mean not spanking right? Because these young children that arnt, are acting like little spoiled brats that are owed something.

  25. Tasha Buchanen

    January 15, 2017 at 4:05 pm

    Hitting your kid because you’re taking aggression out on them?
    Yea. That’s kinda Not the Best Parenting move.
    Spanking a bottom for trouble making???
    I believe many of us have not only survived, but lived to tell about it…
    I’m not saying beating a kid is correct.
    A “spank” is not going to ruin their psyche…
    Not teaching wrong from right or ability to get the attention through normal sit down talk discussion , take away’s…
    Sometimes…. the Spank gets through!

  26. Noel Meyer

    January 15, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    I did, I showed him something similar to this article. He only spanks when he drinks, just like Dad

  27. Domonique Purnell

    January 15, 2017 at 7:55 pm

    take that “clear evidence” and shove it

  28. Stephanie Cook

    January 15, 2017 at 10:04 pm

    Oh please

  29. Miriam

    January 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm

    That’s a lie I was spank as a child and grow up ok I love the hell or of my parents no resentment taught them but then I’m Spanish lol

  30. La Dame De Pique

    January 16, 2017 at 3:47 am


  31. Susi

    January 22, 2017 at 3:26 am

    Obviously the mother who wrote this was never spanked in her life. What utter garbage this is. Wonder who paid for this “research”. Our Government? LOL Maybe if some of the morons today got a spanking they wouldn’t have to live with their parents, be able to get and hold a job and just plain think for themselves. This has been the biggest joke. I am over 50. I got spanked with the belt twice in my life and I did NOT feel I didn’t deserve it and I have never felt unloved or whatever they are telling people. Do NOT believe any of this.

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