Spanking should not be used as discipline says study

February 9, 2012

Spanking used as discipline for children is increasingly linked to long-term negative behaviors in adults and even physical alterations of cognitive areas of the brain, say researchers from Canada. Their analysis of 20 years of published research suggests that physicians should reexamine the issue of physical punishment from a medical perspective and advise parents to seek alternative methods to modify their children’s behavior.

Spanking used as discipline for children is increasingly linked to long-term negative behaviors in adults and even physical alterations of cognitive areas of the brain, say researchers from Canada.

Their analysis of 20 years of published research suggests that physicians should reexamine the issue of physical punishment from a medical perspective and advise parents to seek alternative methods to modify their children’s behavior.

Although spanking is not as widespread as it was in years past, many parents still adhere to the practice and view prohibiting it as encroaching on parents’ rights. However, evidence from recent studies linking physical punishment in childhood with aggression and antisocial behavior in adults is mounting.

Researchers say that physical punishment has been linked with psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse and that neuroimaging research suggests that physical punishment causes alterations in the gray matter in the brain, negatively affecting cognitive and developmental abilities.

“There are no studies that show any long-term positive outcomes from physical punishment,” the researchers said of their literature review.

The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend spanking and suggests that physicians provide guidance to parents that will help them choose constructive ways to elicit desirable behavior from their children instead of resorting to spanking.

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