Should Parents Spank Young Kids?

ByABC News
April 30, 2004, 12:54 PM

May 3 -- Parents receive lots of child-rearing advice, including, "spare the rod and spoil the child."

But researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have discovered that children who are spanked before the age of 2 are more likely to have behavioral problems years later when they enter grade school.

"Spanking children under the age of 2 puts those children into a higher risk group for behavioral problems later," says Eric P. Slade, assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and co-author of a study appearing in this month's issue of Pediatrics.

Some children may be more affected than others.

The greatest risks apply to white, non-Hispanic children. Statistically fewer black and Hispanic children demonstrated the same problems later in life, according to the researchers.

Surprising Results

The study looked at the survey results of 1,966 children nationwide from ethnically diverse households. The children's mothers were asked to describe any behavior problems in their children. They were also asked if they had received a note from a teacher or school administrator, or a request for a parent meeting at school, indicating a behavior problem with the child.

Researchers were surprised to find that 39 percent of all children younger than 2 had been spanked at least once in the previous week. And those children who were spanked received an average of 3.4 spankings in the previous week.

The study is not the first to show a link between spanking and behavioral problems. And other studies have shown that these problems are more pronounced in white, non-Hispanic children.

But this is the first study to show the effects of spanking or other physical punishment in children under the age of 2.

Researchers speculate spanking may be more widely accepted among African American families, and therefore is less likely to be seen as unfair or harsh treatment.