Spanking makes toddlers aggressive
Children who are spanked as 1-year-old are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers.
Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of parenting and the relationship between parent and the child. Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic and increases children's aggression at age 2 years.
To see how spanking impacts the behaviour and cognitive abilities of children, researchers from Austria looked at data on 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families. The data included parents' reports about their children's behaviour, their use of spanking, as well as home visits by trained observers to document parent-child interactions at ages 1, 2 and 3 years. Family characteristics such as race, ethnicity, mother's age, education, family income and the child's gender were taken into consideration.
About one-third of mothers of 1-year-olds reported they or someone in their household had spanked their child in the last week, while about half of the mothers of 2- and 3-year-olds reported that their child had been spanked. The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds was 2.6 per week, while the average for 2-year-olds was nearly three.
It was found that children who were spanked at age 1 year had more aggressive behaviours at age 2 and performed worse on measures of thinking abilities at age 3 years.
Being spanked at age 2 years, however, did not predict more aggressive behaviours at age 3 years, possibly because the spanking had begun at age 1 year and by age 2 year the kids were already more aggressive.
Researchers also looked at the effects of verbal punishment, defined as yelling, scolding or making derogatory comments. Verbal punishment was not associated with negative effects if the mother was otherwise attentive, loving and supportive.
It was also found that mothers who said their children were "fussy" babies were more likely to spank them at ages 1, 2 and 3 year. But children who were more aggressive at 2 years were not more likely to get spanked.
The researches also tested children for cognitive abilities at the age of three and observed that children who were spanked at age 1 performed poorly.
Although the researchers could not explain why spanking inhibited cognitive development among children, they speculated that parents who spank are less likely to use reasoning with their children, something that's good for development.
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