The effects of spanking kids (infographic)

psychology-spanking

Recently I came across the infographic at the end of this post, after sharing why my wife and I choose not spank our children.

I was a little surprised at how prevalent pro-spanking attitudes still are. Yes, Christians (78%) are more likely to think that kids need a good spanking, as are Republicans (80%), those who live in the South (78%), and those with less education 78%). But solid majorities of non-Christians (66%), Democrats (65%), Northerners (63%), and the college-educated (67%) agree with them. In fact, majorities in all but one group (Asians/Pacific Islanders) approved of corporal punishment.

But here’s the one that stopped me in my tracks: 1 in 6 kids are spanked before their first birthday. 

I’m on my second tour of duty as the parent of an infant. I know they can be frustrating. Especially when it’s three in the morning and they JUST. WON’T. SLEEP. But there is nothing—NOTHING—that justifies striking an infant. They’re not even capable of doing anything to deserve punishment. The parts of the brain that govern emotions, relationships, and thought have yet to fully develop.

I’d venture to say at least some of these infant spankings are because the parents were taught their kids are tainted with original sin from the moment of conception. I remember years ago when a VERY reformed colleague of mine brought his newborn daughter to the office, expressing his astonishment that such a beautiful creature could be so utterly depraved, as he put it. Well, if it’s hard to believe, there might be a reason for that. Yes, I believe in sin and its universal effects. But if your theology leads you to hit an infant, you have a pretty terrible theology.

Besides, the Bible implicitly acknowledges that kids of a certain age aren’t yet capable of doing anything bad. (And there are other reasons to revisit our understanding of original sin, as Peter Enns argues.)

Back to the infographic… it also highlights some of the adverse effects of spanking. To me, the evidence is overwhelming that the negative long-term impacts of spanking—higher rates of antisocial and aggressive behavior, poorer mental health, MUCH higher risk of abuse, etc—far outweigh any positive short-term outcome. (In fact, temporary compliance seems to be the only “positive” outcome of spanking.) To those who support spanking in certain cases, what do you make of these findings? Do they cause you to rethink anything, or do you believe there are other factors not considered here?

Oh, and I did wonder about the site behind this infographic. It appears to be a website for researching online psychology degrees. But the content seems to hold up to scrutiny; and, importantly, they cite their sources at the bottom.

Psychology of Spanking
Source: Online-Psychology-Degrees.org/

10 thoughts on “The effects of spanking kids (infographic)

  1. Hi Ben, I have been reading your blog for awhile now and most all of the time there are many things I agree with you on or learn from you. I am a thoughtful 60 year old grandmother who raised 3 kids and now temporarily have 2 of my grandchildren living with me, girls ages 3 and 4 1/2. The spanking debate has been going on for quite a long time, and won’t be solved by your generation of young adults. When one uses the term “spanking”, that can mean anything from a beating with a belt to a little pop on the back of the leg or butt, so to use that term isn’t specific enough, and carries with it a lot of emotional weight. I’ll admit that as a parent I spanked too hard at times and in anger. Even so, I see no ill effects of these spankings in my children, ages 28, 30, and 33 today. They are all grown up, leading responsible lives. Now fast forward to my present situation. My grand daughters are pretty good kids, and well loved by their parents and by me. They are happy and healthy, but, like any child, at times are totally defiant. We use love and logic with them, as well as time-outs, and talk a lot about making good choices. But when all those types of discipline are used and fail to bring obedience, the last resort is a little spanking. This consists of a little pop on the back of the thigh with this so-called Spanker. It is something my daughter found that looks like an emery board, only a little larger and very flexible (made out of cardboard), and couldn’t cause real hurt. It makes a little sting and we use it very sparingly, and I suspect it won’t be needed by the time they are 6. To get the incident over with and move on with the day is better than continuing to cajole and have multiple time-outs, etc. It has its place when properly used. That is night and day difference to the kind of cruelty that you have written about, and what we all have read about child abuse. And I totally agree with you on today’s blog-absolutely no spanking an infant. If you can parent effectively without ever spanking your children, more power to you. But I don’t think most children are that compliant or that easily disciplined. Lane Blessing
    P.S. Keep up the great writing and God bless you as you parent your infant and daughter.

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    • Hi Lane, thanks for sharing. I agree there’s a big difference between what you described and some other forms of physical punishment. For me, the decision not to spank comes down to three things…

      (1) Spanking is still associated with increased risk of negative development. That doesn’t mean every kid who gets spanked will have problems. Many do turn out fine. I would guess the negative outcomes are more strongly linked to extreme forms of physical punishment, e.g. hitting out of anger, hitting repeatedly, etc. Some parents mitigate the risk by practicing restraint in how they administer corporal punishment; we’ve chosen to do so by avoiding spanking altogether. (To your point, sometimes that means discipline is a longer, more arduous process for us…but we’ve also seen some really good outcomes by taking this approach, especially in our daughter’s ability to make good behavioral choices on her own.)

      (2) I don’t spank because I want to avoid a scenario where I might end up doing so out of anger. When our daughter is acting out and I feel my frustrating rising, that’s precisely not the time when I want to give myself the option of using physical punishment to enforce good behavior. Again, for me, the best way to avoid hitting out of anger is to avoid hitting altogether.

      (3) I don’t spank because I don’t want to teach my child that violence is an appropriate way to get what we want. I think that’s one reason why spanking is associated with more aggressive behavior in children. Again, this could be mitigated by the way in which corporal punishment is administered. But I’m not sure I can teach my daughter with integrity that it’s never OK to hit someone if I occasionally hit her (even if it’s a relatively mild swat) to make her behave a certain way.

      One thing is for sure…no one ever said discipline was easy or straightforward!

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    • “in my children, ages 28, 30, and 33 today.”

      If this is true…try to spank them now. Reality states that it IS the larger animal that picks on the smaller one. See if they, at their age..will still put up with your arcane attitudes.

      Ill bet they wont!!

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  2. Ben, when I was doing my last ‘tour of duty’ with an infant in the house–24 years ago–, I discovered Dr. Barry Brazelton, and made him my child-rearing guru. Although he didn’t come right out and say, ‘Don’t spank!’, he did say this: Never spank a child in anger. If spanking is the tool you choose as a deterrent, wait until you are not angry to use it.
    I would argue that when the anger passes, so does the need to spank; who would thoughtfully, judiciously hit a child?
    But spanking an infant should NEVER happen. I worry that young parents feel trapped and frustrated; we–as a society, as a caring people– need to provide help so they don’t reach a point of horrible choices. Every single community needs a hotline for parents almost there, at the bad decision point, to call for non-judgemental help!

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    • That’s a very good point…because every parent reaches a point (some of us multiple times a day!) when we feel completely out of our depth. I know some people have a visceral reaction to the phrase “it takes a village,” but I would very much welcome a community that is there to support (and not supplant) my role as a parent. The hotline is a great idea.

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  3. I was spanked as a child, and I think I turned out fine. My kids were never spanked, and I know they turned out fine. If kids can turn out fine with or without spanking, why spank? I have to wonder whether spanking is really done for the benefit of the kids. Disciplining with spanking strikes me as a lazy way to parent: getting compliance with less effort. And even then, it doesn’t seem to teach anything other than “do what I say or else”; you still have to go to the effort of teaching the whys and hows behind the rules. It may be that we were just lucky and had easy kids. On the other hand, maybe they were easy because from the beginning we put in the effort to avoid resorting to spanking.

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