All parents have countless decisions to make about how to raise their children. One of the most important is how to discipline the child. Psychologists and physicians have been pleading with parents for decades to use non-physical forms of discipline, and avoid corporal punishment, because …

24 Comments to
Negative Consequences of Spanking

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  1. There is a lengthy thread about spanking in PsychCentral’s Forums (started by me). The thread is titled “Childhood spanking and sexual development” and is in the Sex & Gender issues forum. It discusses some other possible negative effects of spanking.

    Thanks, Sidony

  2. I am from china. I pay more attention to it, because I am a very girl who have grown up in a family full of violence. My father like drinking, he always beated me after he was drunken. Therefore, you can imagine it, now there are some serious problems with me. Now I am years old, but I have suicide two times. In addition, I have strong intendacy to abuse myself to relieve tension, and I hate myself so much.
    However, I am studing psychology now, I hope it can help me.

  3. The problem with a lot of the literature on spanking, and I have looked at most of it, is that it:

    1. Assumes that all pain = EVIL
    This is a BIG presupposition!

    2. All or most articles done in context of a parent experiencing a form of explosive anger.

    3. All or most articles done in the context of parent either going “too far” or “too little” but ignoring fact that child was not “broken” in oppositional will challenging rules and parents.

    4. Ignores all those parents that spank calmly, quickly, and consistently. Something most parents do not do and which the articles never report on.

    5. Ignores that unless a child’s willful rebellion is not broken, any spanking does not work but causes damage in creating a) a permissive child and/or b) a “monster-brat. Which instruction, at early ages does nothing to correct.

    6. Ignores those many parents that once they get a child to breaking point, stop, and then confort child, affirming that child with love until child feels secure, protected, and loved.

    The articles are biased and flawed for these many reasons.

  4. It saddens me everytime I read or hear opinions that even question the fact that children under no circumstances should ever be hit. You shouldn’t need any scientific evidence to be sure of this. Human intuition and emotional attachment to your child should be enough to “know” this. If the parent lacks this, individual therapeutic work is the way out of it, since the cause of it all lies, in my opinion, in behaviors, thought- and emotional patterns established during the parents own childhood.

    SL-PH.D, you and many others seem to have a view of the child as some wild creature that needs to be tamed. If you as a parent respect the child in the same way as you would respect an adult and try to understand he or she, promoting democracy instead of autocracy, you will end up with a wonderful person that wants to cooperate and be nice to other people. Not because of a fear for verbal or physical punishments but because he or she truly want this.

    I am from Sweden and I’m honestly proud of our law against spanking and that we have been leaders in the devolopment towards a more humane treatment of children. But at the same time we, and others, have a long way to go. As the article mentions, verbal abuse can be equally damaging as spanking. Emotionally detached and distant parents can have terrible effects on the childs wellbeing. But you can’t legislate against this. But you can when it comes to spanking. And the argument that the article mentions that a law would drive spanking “underground” seems, at least from where I’m coming from, strange. Coupled with parent training programs it is bound to reduce spanking, making it less socially acceptable.

  5. Henrik,

    You assume that pain in a person’s life is evil as I said earlier. I was raised by loving parents that disciplined me corporealy. I never touched illicit drugs or got with the wrong crowd as a result. I am most thankful. Some of my kids had the will of a bull in terms of aggressive behavior and controlled the home until we decided to implement calculated benign and discreet spanking designed to break the child of his active and direct challenge to authority. My kids are incredibly wonderful people that have had, consequently no behavioral problems or issues with authority in their lives. They are celebrated artists in the world of the visual arts and touring the world in big art shows. They are head and shoulders above most of their contemporaries. I believe that the way we brought them up with a love based balance produced that.

    I kindly digress from your view that you seel ALL spanking as evil. I imagine that you also view hard treatment of criminals that victimize society as wrong also. You would speak “kindly” to predators who laugh at “kind” words. Taken to the max, then it is wrong to create pain in someone that wants to kill you or destroy your family and nation. Negotiation with such is laughed and mocked at.

  6. I’m opposed to spanking and all form of physical punishment as discipline. I do not believe that the opposite of spanking is permissiveness. I believe there are other ways to discipline which don’t teach that physically overpowering someone is necessary in life. I’m also opposed to spanking because of my own past: I attended a school which practiced corporal punishment on children who were as old as 10 years and even older! Unfortunately being exposed to something like that during the early years of my sexual development was damaging to me, and I became one of those adults who thought of corporal punishment as something sexual. There are many adults like that! All sorts of spanking implements are sold in sex shops everywhere in the U.S., yet people deny that it has anything to do with childhood discipline practices. It has everything to do with that. Although I think MOST children will still develop normally, it’s a risk not worth running and there are better ways to teach. Saying that fear of physical punishment is the only thing that will coerce a child to behave appropriately is the same as saying that fear of hell is the only thing that will cause adults not to commit acts of violence (it’s an insult to all ethical adults whose morals are independent of fear of punishment).

    Thanks, Sidony

  7. Sidony,

    You are creating a strawman when you compare spanking with the S&M spanking sex world. I know you don’t mean to be mean but I resent that you imply that my wonderful children were treated like sex slaves would be. I would recommend you change your comparison to a less inflamatory one. Again, you presuppose that all inflicting of pain in life is evil. You swing the pendulum to the other extreme thus becoming an extremist. I would categorize myself as a moderate that believes that spanking can speak volumes to a child that is hellbent on challenging authority and thus eventually hurting himself/herself and others. I have seen hundreds of cases where the spanking was done with loving care and tenderness in order to curtail disobedience at early stages of childhood and where verbal instruction does not connect to a child that is not sophisticated enough like an adult.

    Also, I think you exaggerate when you imply that spanking is akin to “fear of hell.” I never did that and most I know that have used positive spanking methods never do so either. This is yet another strawman.

    Also, you assume that all adults understand “instruction.” Not so. There are predators in society that are incorregible and also those that only understand “force.” Again, you remind me of those that permit the criminals to reign over us as they laugh at us for our softness as they continue to rape our children and plant bombs to hurt our freedoms and families. I imagine you don’t have any solutions to solving terrorism since you don’t believe in inflicting pain on any human being. Those nasty terrorists will eat you up because for you Pain = EVIL. (You may be projecting your own trauma based beliefs on us).

  8. SL-PH.D.

    My apologies!!! I did not mean to sound like I was saying or implying anything about YOU! I was talking about ME. Those were MY experiences. I’m opposed to corporal punishment because it had negative effects on ME and my development into an adult (which caused problems for me as an adult). And I realize my experiences offend people, so I should have put warning signs on that post because it’s a sensitive subject. I know the school never intended me any harm at all, but it did still have negative consequences so I oppose it.

    Again, my apologies if it sounded like an attack. It was not directed to you but as a comment to this blog. I intended to share the basis for my opinion since it’s one that’s less known and discussed (or at least less discussed).

    Sidony

  9. Many articles on the topic I mentioned are published here (warning: this will be offensive to anyone sensitive to topics of sexuality or corporal punishment):

    http://nospank.net/101.htm

  10. I should have also said the link would be offensive to anyone sensitive to the topic of abuse or sexual abuse!

    I think no one intends any harm by spanking (except for a few abuse cases out there [warning: those cases ARE talked about on that website]). But I post the link because the essays on the right side talk about some unintended negative consequences (includes stories from people who had problems in their adult life as a result).

  11. Just to balance things out, here are two letters from pediatricians in the distinguished Pediatrics journal who complain about the bias and sloppy research behind anti-spanking sentiment. Go to
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/full/103/3/696?maxtoshow=&HITS=10&hits=10&RESULTFORMAT=&fulltext=spanking&andorexactfulltext=and&searchid=1&FIRSTINDEX=0&sortspec=relevance&resourcetype=HWCIT

  12. I disagree with SD-PhD’s 6 crticisms. I do not believe that using physical pain an violence can ever be a positive expereince for chldren or that a child can feel truly “comforted and secure” after being spanked by those who are set out to protect them. I believe spanking is a lazy and disrespectful behaviour on the part of parents who have not taken them time to create a helthier envoronment for thier kids.

  13. Well, being beaten by a drunk father or being sexually abused are obviously wrong and hurtful.But these things are quite different from the average spanking.Every friend i have who was spanked as a child for a punishment,doesn’t complain about it and agrees that they’ll do it to their children. I was spanked when I did wrong as a child, and I’m perfectly fine now.

  14. Kids can love the parents who abuse them, and cling to them despite repeated abuse because that is all they know. So to say that a child that has been spanked can’t then be comforted by the spanking parent is complete crap and thus is not a valid point. I am in the middle in the spanking debate. I know from personal exp that it is helpful in moderation and in a loving home but I know that parents spank in anger which should never be done. Beating a child should never be done. But from what I have seen the method of discipline doesn’t matter as much as that is applied in a consistant manner when called for and that it is balanced out with a system of rewards and lots of love. Disciplining a child is never a fun thing to do. Parents don’t want to spank even if they defend it’s use. Different kids respond to different things and if you happen to have a kid who responds well to being spanked as opposed to being put in time out or having a toy taken away then that parent doing what is best for their child should use the methods that work.

    It is a complete joke that we frown on some methods of discipline but not others that can be just as damaging.

  15. SL-PH.D.
    When you mention your child’s aggressive behaviour, I am assuming he was physical, hitting, punching, kicking and the like.

    It is interesting to me that you taught your child not to hit by hitting him.

    Do as I say, not as I do.

  16. I just have one question for the psychologist! Do you have children? It seems to me by many of your opinions that you do not, and I promise you that what you think is the correct way to discipline your child before you actually have one, will change drastically when he/she turns 3! Thus, I have had this debate with many friends. Before they had children, they said they would never spank and always use positive reinforcement. Now that they have children, they all spank when necessary. Unfortunately, you can in no way reason with a 3 year old or many other children!

    • So basically your friends aren’t strong enough for non-harmful childcare. And I’d say that it’s better if the psychologist doesn’t have kids. Having children would make him biased and those emotions would alter is logistics.

    • NONSENSE!!!!!! I am a nanny and if I hit your child, I would be in jail!!! How do professional educated teachers and caregivers do it without violence??? WE LEARN and we have patience…..”Americans need to re-evaluate why we believe it is reasonable to hit young, vulnerable children, when it is against the law to hit other adults, prisoners, and even animals,” she wrote in the new edition of the American Psychological Association’s bimonthly journal.”
      http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2002/06/26/health/main513469.shtml

  17. I honestly don’t know what to think and I’m in school to become a psychologist. I feel it is wrong, but on an occasion it can become useful, yet I think that spanking will create horrible things in children if the parents aren’t spending time with them to help them understand certain things in life. All in all, psychologists do not say that criminals should be set free or tried to speak nicely to them or that spanking created evil. I think that psychologists are trying to get to the root of the problem with the criminal to find out what in their life could have made them become the person that they are and how that must have fitted in with the crime they committed. Really that is all a psychologists is there for. To help them get better, ok, but would I trust the criminal again. Hell No!!!! I think they should pay their price for whatever it is they have done. With that being said, that kinda goes hand in hand with discipline. You make your bed, you lie in it. Raising children to realize this is essential,yet sometimes depending on DNA, it may not happen. DNA has a lot to do with how children turn out also. We can go generations back and see things that pin point exactly why a child does what they do. Like for instances, I went back two generations and found out that my great great grandmother’s chin looks just like mine or shall I say my chin looks like hers. DNA is powerful, therefore, the personality can make one do things that we may not understand why. My point here is that we psychologists are not feeling sorry for the criminal, we are just trying to understand the behavior and where it may have come from in order to make a better society, yet I’m sure that may not happen for awhile depending on technology. With all of this being said, I still don’t know if spanking is right or wrong, but I do know one thing, if it is done all the time, then I do believe children can grow up resenting their parents and others. If not done a certain way and only on certain occasions then the child will run around and take control. I hope I didn’t step on anyone’s toes. Thank you for reading my post.

  18. Question: my then 3 year old was very upset (and she is very talkative and won’t ever stop arguing, she will even try to stop me in the middle of my advise to her in order to give me her point of view) and after trying to calm her down in many ways, used the time out, took something out from her, let her cry for so long… and such… then out of frustration she hit me, I stopped and looked at her very firmly and thought about it for a few seconds, and spank her hand once and asked her, do you like that? she was crying and surprised and told me “NO”, then I told her “then don’t you ever do that to me or anybody else ever again”… she stopped, and I haven’t had that problem again. Now the question, do you think that will have negative consequences in her development?
    Or now (she’s 4) she was very upset because she wanted to put some sunscreen on her… told her no, her dad said no… but she kept on pushing us, then I threaten with time out, she kept on going… I asked her to stop because I was getting upset as well and grabbed her ponytail for a second and looked at her firmly (did not pulled at all) and asked her to stop… will this have bad consequences on her development?
    This 2 episodes have open discussions with my husband… hours of discussion. He has the “no spanking rule” and I have the “threat” rule after trying all the “non violent” ways. So we agreed to look for information in this matter but there’s nothing out there that will discuss this actions. So the final question will be, isn’t time out or taking something away from a kid the same way of threat? is threat any good at all? Do you know of any kind of psychology or medical articles that touch this differences and explain the pros or cons about one way or the other way of discipline?
    I will greatly appreciate your input in this matter, since he insist that I’m wrong unless I can refute with a medical article.
    Thanks

    • The only thing I see changing is that parents don’t punish anymore because a therapist says to not and children get worse. Things were much different years ago and parents spanked their kids, my great grandmother would tell me to go get a switch from the tree! I knew what was coming from that! I am not a criminal and do not feel I was physically abused because I was spanked. That is just rediculous crap! Don’t back hand your child for being bad, but most definately give a good whack on the bottom if they back talk or don’t listen or are rude to others. The rule when i was growing up was don’t bruise, just hurt my feelings. Respect is earned not given.

      • Not everyone’s experience is the same. Your personal anecdote should not form your opinion.

    • http://www.positive-parents.org/

      Listen to Child Development experts, not religious fanatics!!!! AAP says NO NO NO spanking, hitting, harming in any way. It’s illegal to do to other adults, prisoners and animals….why is it ok to hit innocent defenseless kids just learning?? Teach by example, no slapping hands, no hair pulling…it’s TIME OUT in the effective manner, LOGICAL CONSEQUENCES (no sunscreen= no outside) ….WARNINGS *WITH FOLLOW THRU,….NOT THREATS!!!!

  19. In my humble opinion, I think that our society has gone completely wack. We think we know, we think we know whats best. Our drs, and psychologists think they are all knowing. I guarantee, that as I am also a psychologist,I am hard against any anti spanking laws. It is a matter of opinion. I do not agree with abusing your children or anyone else. Do not mis interpret. This is not something that should be regulated by our government but should be taught by psychologists regardless of stance all sides. I believe all parents should be required to participate in parenting classes that teach all types of discipline, positive and negative affects of all aspects with examples of case studies. emotional environment should not be overlookesd as the problem that causes behavioral issues in children as they grow older. There should be a correct amount of emotional love, physical love and proper physical discipline. IT is NOT the physical act of spanking that is the problem. The problem lies in REACTION instead of response. If a parent REACTS to the child and out of that reaction resorts to physcial discipline, you may cause confusion in the childs mind, and will have a negative effect. You need to be sure that if using physical discipline you are differentiating your actions from theirs in their mind. This should be used in conjunction with other means of discipline. A quick easy spanking will grab their attention and associate what they do negative with a negative feeling. This should not be used for every situation that requires discipline but in the situation where the child is acting out in bigger ways. Let the punishment be matched to their crime.

  20. We are studying Tedd Tripp’s book “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”. He goes into detail about the correct way to do corporal punishment with love and not anger and also how to use communication skills with your child. If it is with anger or out of frustration, it can be very liken to physical abuse. He says it should be done with love and control.

    It is an interesting read even for non-Christians. We don’t do spanking but am gathering information as to the pros and cons.

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