2005-11-21 18:35:19 UTC
Spanking children fuels aggression, anxiety By Megan Rauscher
Children who are spanked when they misbehave are more likely to be
anxious and aggressive than children who are disciplined in nonphysical
ways, research shows. This is true even if spanking is the "cultural
Whether parents should spank their children or use other forms of
physical discipline is controversial. Some experts argue that children
should not be spanked when they act out citing evidence that it leads
to more, rather than fewer, behavior problems and it could escalate
into physical abuse. There are data to support this argument.
Other experts, however, argue that the effects of spanking and physical
discipline might depend on the characteristics of the child and family
and the circumstances in which it is used.
To investigate the latter theory, researchers from questioned 336
mothers and their children in China, India, Italy, Kenya, the
Philippines, and Thailand about cultural norms surrounding use of
physical discipline and how it affected their children's behavior.
Jennifer Lansford, a research scientist from the Center for Child and
Family Policy at Duke University spearheaded the survey. She told
Reuters Health that "across the six countries studied, children who
were physically disciplined more frequently were more aggressive and
anxious than were children who were physically disciplined less
"However, in countries where the use of physical discipline was more
common, being physically disciplined more frequently was not related as
strongly to aggression and anxiety as it was in countries where
physical discipline was less frequently used," she said.
Not surprisingly, in Thailand, a country where peace-promoting Buddhist
teachings predominant, moms were least likely to spank their children
or use other forms of physical discipline.
In Kenya, on the other hand, where use of physical discipline is common
and considered normal for the most part, moms were most likely to spank
or engage in similar disciplinary tactics. In a study conducted in
Kenya in 2003, 57 percent of grandmothers reported caning, pinching,
slapping, tying with a rope, hitting, beating, and kicking as forms of
discipline they had used on their grandchildren.
One question the findings raise, according to Lansford, is whether
being physically disciplined more frequently causes an increase in
aggression and anxiety or whether children who are already aggressive
and anxious are simply physically disciplined more often. "On the basis
of other work conducted in the United States, the answer is probably
some of each," Lansford said.
"Another question is whether physical discipline is appropriate in this
day and age, regardless of how accepted it may be," she added.
SOURCE: Child Development, November/December 2005