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Spanking does more harm than good, says new U of M study

Apr 25, 2016

Parents who take a "spare the rod, spoil the child" approach to discipline are doing their children more harm than good, according to a new study.

The study from the University of Michigan and University of Texas says spanking can have long-term detrimental effects on children, including mental health problems, cognitive difficulties and aggressive behavior.

Study co-author Andy Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor with the U of M School of Social Work, says the outcomes are similar to child abuse, to a slightly lesser degree.

"Not every child who is spanked is going to grow up to be aggressive or have mental health problems, but it worsens the odds. It considerably worsens the odds,"says Grogan-Kaylor.

The study also found that spanking, defined as "an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities," was not associated with complicit behavior in the short or long term, and instead increased "a wide variety of undesired outcomes."

"Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do," Grogan-Kaylor said.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Family Psychology, analyzed 50 years of research involving more than 160,000 kids.