Spanking and Later Aggressive Behavior in Children

Academic study links spanking to later aggressive and antisocial behavior in children according to researcher Murray Straus, PhD.  As reported by Rick Nauert, PhD, Senior News Editor for PsychCentral, spanking a child can have the exact opposite result of what a parent intends.  Straus’s research indicates that college students who were spanked as children are more likely to engage in criminal behavior.  Also found was that “even young adults whose parents were generally loving and helpful as they were growing up, showed higher rates of criminal behavior.”

In many cultures, parents have historically been regarded as having the duty of disciplining their children, and the right to spank them when appropriate.  Public attitudes towards the acceptability and effectiveness of spanking vary a great deal by nation and region.

Straus examined the criminality tendencies of university students from 15 different countries including the United States, Hong Kong, and Russia.  Nine dimensions of cr4iminality were measured. 

The study refutes the idea that spanking done by “loving and helpful” parents is somehow not harmful.  Rather, across cultures, spanking appears to be associated with child behavior problems regardless of the parents’ intent and demeanor toward the child.

“Straus found that positive parenting decreased the probability of subsequent crime but mainly for nonfamily crime. And even though positive parenting was associated with less crime by students, the relation of spanking to crime remained for all nine aspects of crime.”

This research suggests that parents should literally take a “hands-off” approach to parenting and find alternative methods of disciplining their children.   Even well-intended parents can negatively effect their children from the use of spanking.

Lisa Steffek

About Lisa Steffek

Lisa Steffek is a third year student at the University of Houston Law Center. Lisa completed her Bachelors, Masters and Doctor of Philosophy at the University of Texas in Human Development and Family Sciences. As an undergraduate, Lisa worked as a research assistant studying child attachment. Lisa also worked for several years at The Settlement Home, a residential treatment center for emotionally disturbed adolescent females. Most of the girls at The Settlement Home had been removed from their homes by Child Protective Services, and Lisa worked with the girls to teach them life-skills and provided psychological treatment to prepare them for adulthood and the transition to foster homes. Lisa also worked for six years in various academic capacities at the University of Texas, including an undergraduate teaching assistant, graduate research assistant, and undergraduate writing consultant. Lisa has presented papers regarding human development at various academic conferences in the states and abroad, and has had her writing published in an international, academic journal.

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