Researchers: Spanking can affect a child's well-being

New research sheds light on whether parents should spank children

VIDEO: Melanie Lawson reports on how spanking affects your children's emotional health.

By some reports, 70% of American parents think it’s sometimes acceptable to spank. At the same time, the American Academy of Pediatrics says corporal punishment is harmful.

Now, new research seems to bolster earlier findings on spanking and a child’s well-being. 

“There’s been a lot of research over the past several decades and research is clear from the United States and other high-income countries that spanking is harmful to kids,” said Garrett Pace, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan.

Pace and his colleagues wanted to know if spanking had the same impacts in middle- and low-income countries.

Using surveys from the United Nation’s Children’s Fund, researchers examined data from 215,000 kids in 62 countries. They looked at the relationship between spanking and how mothers reported their child was faring.

“What we found was spanking was associated with lower child well-being,” Pace said. 

Pace said parents who spanked their child reported their child was more aggressive: biting, hitting and kicking other kids. He said the findings strengthen the evidence that spanking is harmful. Instead, he said, parents should explain in age-appropriate terms what the child has done wrong and the implications.

When his 6-year-old daughter, Ayreanna, acts up, Riley Engstrom and his partner are quick to correct her, but, he said, “We don’t really spank ever.” 

Riley said they are fair, but firm with Aryeanna.

“When she does stuff wrong, we get down on her eye level, make sure she knows why it’s bad, and what it could ultimately lead to," he said.

Engstrom said he spends his evening hours playing dinosaurs or dolls, whatever Aryeanna is in the mood for.

“Building that relationship so that when my daughter grows up she knows she always has me. That’s definitely the most important thing," Engstrom said.

Pace said 54 countries around the world have banned spanking. He said in the United States, some states have worked to ban spanking, most recently Hawaii.