Spanking is commonly known as an “an open-handed hit on the bottom or extremities.” Most of the time spanking is used to reduce undesirable behaviors by associating that behavior with the physical consequence of discomfort or pain (but not physical injury).  According to a study by UNICEF in 2014 nearly 80% of parents around the world spank their children. But what does research have to say about spanking?

The Results of Research

Many longitudinal studies have been performed to discover the short and long-term effects of spanking. Since nearly all parents employ some form of spanking, I assumed that the research would have both positive and negative results. But in fact, studies reveal only one positive attribute of spanking: it effectively curbs negative behavior if done immediately after the behavior is performed. Otherwise, the conclusions are all in alignment that spanking causes a variety of negative effects on your children.

Let’s begin first with the one positive effect! Immediate spanking curbs the unwanted behavior. Compare it to touching a hot stove; the instant pain experienced from touching the hot surface will likely cause you to never do that again. It’s the same association with spanking right away after an undesired behavior. However, if spanking is not used immediately, it is not effective at all. Can you imagine if you were sent a letter in the mail and charged for a speeding ticket that occurred 5 years ago? You likely don’t remember that exact moment, so paying the fine now will not change your driving skills.

Kids who are spanked are more likely to be aggressive toward others. Although naturally aggressive children are spanked more frequently, aggression levels increase in all children who are spanked.

Children who are spanked are more likely to employ hitting as a solution for interpersonal conflicts with their peers or siblings. They observe how their parents spanked them for their inappropriate interactions (like disobeying) so therefore they believe it is an acceptable practice for their other relationships.

When spanked, children reported emotions of fear, sadness, and anger. For a child, love and trust are associated in their relationship with their parents, so hitting does not fit into that paradigm.

Children who are spanked are more likely to engage in criminal behaviors or delinquency when they get older.

And parents who spank their kids are more likely to have anti-social behaviors and to develop mental health issues. Additionally, parents who spank their kids are more likely to use physical punishments as consequences with their children, paving a slippery slope to potential child abuse.

There is hope!

Guess what else the research showed? Instead of using spanking as an immediate consequence, time out was revealed to be just as effective! Psychologists and doctors recommend that physical harm, like spanking, should be avoided. Therefore, time out is the perfect option as a replacement.

Why do you spank your child?

If you spank your child, ask yourself: “Why do I spank my child?” or “What is the trigger that causes me to spank my child?” Consider if this action creates forward or backward progress. Are there other alternatives that you would rather employ, such as time out or loss of a privilege?



Jana is the odd one out. Not a parent herself, she writes from the perspective of a young baby sitter. Experienced in making bedtime fun, she brings a unique perspective to parenting. She hopes that all she learns now will make the magic of being a parent just that extra bit special. She has no fixed address and is vagabonding around the globe, widening her world view.