Children Who Are Spanked at a Young Age Are More Prone to Aggression

A growing body of research links spanking of young children to negative outcomes including aggressive behavior.

The Community Health Sciences department at Tulane University surveyed 2500 mothers of 3 year old children. A little more than a quarter of the mothers reported that they had spanked their children "once or twice" in the last month.

A similar share reported spanking their children three or more times over the same period. Researchers also asked about parental stress levels, parental depression, substance abuse, and other sources of tension at home. They found that parents confronting more of these sources of stress were more likely to resort to spanking.

Even after adjusting for environmental risk factors, the researchers found that the children who were spanked at age 3 were more likely to display signs of aggression at age 5. They were more argumentative, and were more likely to engage in screaming, bullying, fighting, breaking objects, and threatening others. Lead author of the study Catherine Taylor argues "the more frequently children are hit for whatever reason, the more stress they're feeling, which can impact brain development, emotional development and can impact behavior." The study recommends parents use nonviolent, positive forms of punishment like time-outs that do not teach children to respond to stressful situations with violence.