There is increasing awareness in the general public of the negative risks of spanking. Research shows a 93% agreement that spanking is harmful.  Spanking is consistently linked to increased behavioral problems, increased aggression and defiance, and lower moral internalization.  It is also linked to an increased risk of mental illness in adolescence, drug and alcohol abuse, and a greater likelihood of domestic violence into adulthood.  Spanking little children is particularly problematic, due to the profound effect that negative experiences can have on the rapid development of the brain in the first few years of life.

Spanking Still Overwhelmingly Acceptable

Formal Policy Statements

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that spanking is harmful to children and should never be used.
The Centers for Disease Controlhas published a technical package addressing ending violence against children calling for both educational and legislative action to end the practice of corporal punishment in the home and to promote positive parenting.
The National Women’s Law Centeralong with 79 organizations has written a formal letter to local and state educational agencies and policymakers calling for an end to corporal punishment in schools.
American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children(APSAC), 2016  APSAC is committed to ending all abuse of children and promoting children’s welfare. Given the research evidence about the harms associated with corporal punishment, APSAC opposes hitting children for discipline or other purposes. APSAC calls for the elimination of all forms of corporal punishment in part because it increases children’s risk for physical abuse.
The National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners(NAPNAP) believes that to achieve a healthy environment for children it is necessary to eliminate corporal punishment in schools and other settings where children are cared for or educated. In addition, parents must be educated about harmful effects of CP and instructed about effective alternative forms of discipline.
American Psychoanalytic Association(APsaA) condemns the use of physical punishment (corporal punishment) in the discipline of children and recommends alternative methods that enhance children’s capacities to develop healthy emotional lives, tolerate frustration, regulate internal tensions, and behave in socially acceptable ways.
Cornel University, College of Human Ecology strongly opposes striking a child for any reason. Spanking is NEVER recommended.

A look at the research and the neuroscience…

Drs. Murray Straus and Elizabeth Gershoff, leading researchers on the practice of corporal punishment, warn, “The research is clear – parents should NEVER spank their children.”

Dr. Martin Teicher, Neuroscientist and Researcher on Early Abuse & Neglect and Brain Development discusses the effect of spanking on brain development.

Dr. Elizabeth Gershoff discusses the most recent research, 2016


Spank, Slap, or Hit? How Labels Alter Perceptions of Child Discipline. 

Brown, Alan S.; Holden, George W.; Ashraf, Rose, Psychology of Violence

Risks of harm from spanking confirmed by analysis of 5 decades of research

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Andrew Grogan-Kaylor. Spanking and Child Outcomes: Old Controversies and New Meta-Analyses.. Journal of Family Psychology, 2016

Hugs, Not Hits: Warmth and Spanking as Predictors of Child Social Competence

Elizabeth Gershoff, Shawna Lee, Inna Altschul, Journal of Marriage & Family

Parents’ Primary Professional Sources of Parenting Advice Moderate Predictors of Parental Attitudes toward Corporal Punishment

Catherine Taylor,  Journal of Child and Family Studies


Parental Warmth Does Not Remove Anxiety that Follows Punishment

March 16, 2015,  Jennifer E. Lansford et al, Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology

The Link Between Domestic Violence and Spanking,

Save the Children & The Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children


Trends in Children’s Exposure to Violence

JAMA Pediatrics, April 28, 2014, David Finkelhor, PhD

Parental spanking of 1-year-old children and subsequent child protective services involvement

Child Abuse & Neglect, March 3, 2014, Shawna Lee, Andrew Grogan-Taylor

Eavesdropping on the Family: A Pilot Investigation of Corporal Punishment in the Home

American Psychological Association, February, 2014, George Holden, PhD

The Abolition of the Parental Right to Corporal Punishment.

KRIMINOLOGISCHES FORSCHUNGSINSTITUT NIEDERSACHSEN E.V., 2014, Christian Pfeiffer, PhD. Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony, Hanover, G.ermany

Experience of Parental Corporal Punishment in Childhood and Adolescence and its Effect on Punitiveness

Stefanie Kemme, Christian Pfeiffer, Journal of Family Violence


Early parental physical punishment and emotional and behavioral outcomes in preschool children

Child: Care, Health, and Development, February 24, 2013, S. Scott, J. Lewsey, L. Thompson, P. Wilson

Harsh Physical Punishment in Childhood and Adult Physical Health

Afifi, Tracie, Pediatrics, July 2013; DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-4021

Research findings can change attitudes about corporal punishment

Child Abuse & Neglect, November 16, 2013, George Holden

Normal spanking in preschool years linked to increased aggression and poorer receptive vocabulary at age

Spanking and Development Across the First Decade of Life, Pediatrics, October 21, 2013, Michael J. MacKenzie, PhD

Maternal Warmth is Not Enough

Does Maternal Warmth Moderate Longitudinal Associations Between Maternal Spanking and Child Aggression in Early Childhood?, American Psychological Association, January, 2013, Gershoff, E.

Concise Summary: Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children

Child Development Perspectives, Vol 7, #3, November 2013, Gershoff, E.

Parental spanking and subsequent risk for child aggression in father-involved families of young children

Children & Youth Services Review. Sep 2013, Vol. 35 Issue 9, p1476-1485. 10p, Lee, Shawna; Taylor, Catherine


Corporal Punishment and Verbal Insults Increase Risk for Cancer, Heart Disease, and Asthma into Adulthood

Journal of Behavioral Medicine, September 2012, Michael E. Hyland, Ahmed M. Alkhalaf, Ben Whalley

Canadian Medical Association Journal Summary on Physical Punishment

Summary Analysis of the last 20 years of research on the effects of physical punishment on children.

Physical Punishment and Mental Health Disorders

Tracie O. Afifi, et al, Results from a Nationally Representative US Sample. PEDIATRICS, Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics

Editor-in-Chief of Canadian Medical Journal Association 

Editor-in-Cheif calls for Ban on Spanking in Home based upon the Research

Spanking young children shows a transactional relationship increasing chance of more spanking (for boys) and cascading effect on future development from ages 1 – 3 and 3-5. Transactional and Cascading Relations Between Early Spanking and Children’s Social-Emotional Development

Journal of Marriage & Family, October 2012, Maguire and Gromoske

Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of Research

Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2012, Joan Durrant PhD, Ron Ensom MSW RSW

Corporal Punishment and Child Behavioural and Cognitive Outcomes through 5 Years of Age: Evidence from a Contemporary Urban Birth Cohort Study

Infant and Child Development Inf. Child. Dev. 21: 3–33 (2012), MacKenzie, M

Forms of Spanking and Children’s Externalizing Behaviors (Spanking Causes Acting Out Behavior, particularly in boys)

Family Relations Apr 2012, Lansford, JE


Spanking Stimulates Genetic Predisposition toward Anti-Social Behavior

Physical punishment and childhood aggression: the role of gender and gene–environment interplay, Brian B. Boutwell, AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, Volume 37, pages 559–568 (2011)

Who Spanks Infants and Toddlers? Evidence from the Fragile Families and Child Well-Being Study

Michael MacKenzie, et al Child Youth Serv. Rev. August 1, 2011, pgs.1364-1373

Children’s behavior problems were significantly greater when both verbal hostility and physical punishment were used. Parental Discipline and Child Behavior

The Pitzer College Student Journal of Psychology, Volume 1, Fall 2011, Tamara A. Hamai, Ann Isbell, and Lillian Ku,

Corporal punishment in schools showed reduced executive functioning, abstract thinking, delayed gratification. Suggests that a punitive environment not only fosters increased dishonesty but also children’s abilities to lie to conceal their transgressions.

Effects of a Punitive Environment on Children’s Executive Functioning: A Natural Experiment

University of Toronto Social Development, Volume 20, Issue 4, pages 805–824, November 2011
Victoria Talwar, McGill University, Stephanie M. Carlson, University of Minnesota and Kang Lee


Mothers’ Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children’s Aggressive Behavior

Pediatrics 2010; 125:5 e1057-1065, Catherine A. Taylor, Jennifer A. Manganello, Shawna J. Lee, and Janet C. Rice

Corporal Punishment of Children

Duke Law, Law & Contemporary Problems, Volume 73, Number 2 (Spring 2010)

  • Prevalence, Societal Causes, and Trends in Corporal Punishment by Parents in World Perspective; Murray A. Straus
  • More Harm Than Good: A Summary of Scientific Research on the Intended and Unintended Effects of Corporal Punishment on Children, Elizabeth T. Gershoff

Spanking Linked to Physical Child Abuse
Corporal Punishment and Physical Abuse: Population-Based, Trends for Three to Eleven Year Old Children in the United States

Child Abuse Review Vol. 20: 57–66 (2011), Published online 18 June 2010 in Wiley Online Library, ( DOI: 10.1002/car.1128, Adam J. Zolotor


Spanking is Linked to Smaller Pre-frontal Cortex in Young Adults

Reduced Prefrontal Cortical Gray Matter Volume in Young Adults Exposed to Harsh Corporal Punishment, NeuroImage, Volume 47, Supplement 2, August 2009, Pages T66–T71, Akemi Tomoda, MD, PhD, Ann Polcari, PhD and Martin H. Teicher, MD

Corporal Punishment is Correlated to Lower IQ

Dr. Murray Straus, Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire

2008 and Earlier

Report on Physical Punishment in the United States: What Research Tells Us About Its Effects on Children

Columbus, OH: Center for Effective Discipline, Gershoff, E.

Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children & Youth 

This is a summary analysis of research on physical punishment published by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, CANADA 

Children Should NEVER Be Spanked

Dr. Murray A. Straus, Family Research Laboratory, University of New Hampshire

What Parents Believe About Children Links to Chance of Hitting Them.  Attitudes Predict the Use of Physical Punishment: A Prospective Study of the Emergence of Disciplinary Practices

Pediatrics June 2006, 117:6 2055-2064; doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2204, Brigitte Vittrup, George W. Holden, & Jeanell Buck

Spanking in Early Childhood and Later Behavior Problems: A Prospective Study of Infants and Young Toddlers

Pediatrics 2004; 113:5 1321-1330
Eric P. Slade and Lawrence S. Wissow

Spanking Infants Causes Cortisol Problems

Dr. Bugental, The hormonal costs of subtle forms of infant maltreatment, Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara; US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health; January 2003

Sweden banned spanking in the home in 1979, and has conducted a 30-year-long longitudinal study to understand its results….

SWEDEN’S Ban of Spanking Since 1979

What are the outcomes from the ban on spanking in Sweden over thirty years later?  Read the longitudinal study by Sweden’s Ministry of Health & Social Affairs.

Spanking Infants and Toddlers: Maternal Belief and Practice

Pediatrics Vol. 95 No. 1 January 1, 1995 pp. 105 ‐111
Rebecca R. S. Socolar, Ruth E. K. Stein

Stefan Molyneux from Freedomain Radio put together an accurate and elegant presentation on the research data for those that want to know more about the nitty gritty of the spanking research.