Study finds smacking kids makes their behaviour worse

Holding hands
New studies have found the giving kids a smack might not be the most effective discipline method. Source: Getty

A new study has revealed that children who are smacked at a young age are more likely to develop behaviour problems.

The study, conducted by the University of Texas at Austin (UTA), was published in the journal Psychological Science and used statistics and teacher testimonies to study the effectiveness of smacking a child as a disciplinary action.

It used the survey responses of more than 12,000 American families who talked about their child’s behaviour from kindy to grade eight; the data was part of a national Early Childhood Longitudinal study.

Researchers got their results by pairing up subjects who had and had not been smacked and observing their behaviour. To get the most accurate results, the children in the study had to meet the same standard in a 38-factor test.

The 38 factors included their initial level of behavioural problems as rated by a teacher, their parents’ marital status, their mental health, their stress levels and their parenting style (as defined by the children).

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The final results showed that children who were smacked at five years old were more likely to develop behaviour problems at six and then further problems at eight.

These results were dependant on teachers’ ratings of children’s behaviour. If children were smacked with frequency, the survey found their behaviour to be even worse.

Elizabeth Gershoff, the professor of human development at UTA who headed the study believes that we are making more and more progress on finding out the effect spanking has on children.

Gershoff told The Australian, “This is the closest we can get, outside of an experiment, to say that spanking causes negative changes in children’s behaviour. I can’t think of another way to explain our results,”

However, a majority of Australians still believe that smacking is an effective method of discipline. In 2012 a poll on News.com.au found that 85 percent of Aussies have smacked their kids. Only eight per cent of more than 4000 of the respondents regretted using that method.

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Recently a comprehensive 50-year study of 160,000 children found the more children were smacked, the more aggressive and anti-social they became.

The research, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, is just one of many studies marking a correlation between smacking and behavioural issues. According to the study, 80 per cent of children around the world are disciplined using this method.

Corporal punishment of children including hitting and smacking is illegal in 53 countries. 

What do you think about smacking? How did you discipline your children?