Smacking Kids Doesn’t Work and Makes Them Behave Worse, Research Finds

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Now, the debate around parents smacking or hitting their own children has been rife for a while now, but new research shows that using physical violence against your child as a punishment can actually worsen their behavior.

Professor Elizabeth Gershoff from the University of Texas at Austin and senior author of the report has been researching the topic for over twenty years. She, along with lead author, Dr. Anja Heilmann and co-author Jillian van Turnhout as well as other contributors, have provided us with an in-depth look at how raising your hand at your child can affect them in their childhood as we as later on in their adult life.

Common arguments parents use to defend their actions are usually that it works, or “it’s not hitting, it’s just a spanking.”

Professor Gershoff has also stated that some have even used their communities or cultures, stating that it is a common practice so there is nothing wrong with it. However, this has been disproved by the report published by The Lancet.

The overview states that the “review summarises the findings of 69 prospective longitudinal studies to inform practitioners and policymakers about physical punishment’s outcomes.” Most of the studies are based in the United States and exclude any punishment that could constitute child physical abuse, which is not currently the same as spanking or smacking.

After presenting all the evidence, the researchers concluded that “physical punishment is harmful to children and that policy remedies are warranted.” They also found that hitting or smacking children can often lead to behavioral difficulties such as aggression, violence, and antisocial behavior later on in their lives.

“There is no evidence that physical punishment is good for children,” Professor Gershoff said. “All the evidence indicates that physical punishment is harmful to children’s development and well-being.”

She continued: “Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior. Unfortunately for parents who hit, our research found clear and compelling evidence that physical punishment does not improve children’s behavior and instead makes it worse.”

Dr. Anja Heilmann, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health also added the following: Physical punishment is ineffective and harmful, and has no benefits for children and their families. This could not be clearer from the evidence we present.”

With definitive research such as this one, the experts hope that this will prompt changes in the law regarding the safety of children within their own homes or even relatives’ homes.

Jillian van Turnhout, a former Senator in the Irish Parliament said this: “As a former parliamentarian who championed the change in the law in Ireland and directly supported the legislative change in Scotland and Wales, I know the importance of ensuring an evidence base for policy and legislation.

“This review has documented compelling evidence that hitting children doesn’t work, and in many cases, it is harmful.”

She also added this: “Countries need to do all they can to ensure that all children have equal protection from all forms of harm, including physical punishment.”

You can request the full report here.