r/science 10d ago

Longitudinal study of kindergarteners suggests spanking is harmful for children’s social competence Psychology

https://www.psypost.org/2023/01/longitudinal-study-of-kindergarteners-suggests-spanking-is-harmful-for-childrens-social-competence-67034
27.7k Upvotes

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u/theblackd 10d ago

Hasn’t there been evidence for a while from similar studies that spanking or any hitting of kids is no more effective than something like time-outs but really raises the chances of behavioral problems later on, drug abuse, mental health problems, criminal behavior, suicide, and a number of health problems and basically makes them less intelligent?

Like, we’ve known for a while that hitting kids is bad and doesn’t even have the upside of succeeding at its intended goal anyways, there isn’t any kind of scientific evidence pointing to anything other than it being very harmful

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u/LeskoLesko 9d ago

When I went through adoption, we had to read a bunch of studies about the negative consequences of spanking and sign a paper promising not to use corporal punishment in our parenting styles. I feel like that says something.

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u/[deleted] 9d ago

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u/robxburninator 9d ago

A long time ago a friend described that as "grandparent syndrome"

Lots of parents that were not-great-parents for one reason or another (neglect, physical violence, emotional violence, mental health, etc.) change dramatically when they become grandparents. I didn't really believe it until I saw it happen to both my parents and my wife's parents. The empathy and energy they spend on their grandchildren is inspiring but as a person that was there... before.... it does sting a little

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u/athena_k 9d ago

This is one reason why I distanced myself from my parents. They are so sweet and kind to their grandkids. These are the same people that would regularly beat me, scream at me, tell me I was stupid, etc.

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u/cy13erpunk 9d ago

i feel that it is important to understand that our parents are and were imperfect/foolish ignorant children themselves

we are all products of a cycle that goes back generations

coming from a fairly abusive childhood i can relate , and i too have an amicable relationship with my parents but it will never be the close kind that my wife has with hers

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u/DingusMcFingus 9d ago

True, but I refuse to make excuses for my abuser. I will never respect people who hit children.

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u/BFNentwick 9d ago

As a parent of really young kids, it’s also just easier to be empathetic and calm in smaller doses. A grandparent only has to deal with a two year olds tantrums once in awhile, not every day.

And the grandkids misbehaviors don’t actively impact the grandparents ability to tend to their personal responsibilities the way it does for parents.

Not saying that the outbursts or physical punishment is acceptable by contrast, just that as a father with his own anger management issues to keep in check, I understand how much more stressful it is to be a parent than a grandparent.

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u/notquitecockney 9d ago

I think it’s actually bigger than this. When you’re taking care of someone else’s kid, and they do something difficult, you think “hmm, I wonder what’s up there”. But when it’s your kid, their behaviour makes you worry you’ve messed up somehow. Your kid is broken, and it’s your fault. This brings up a lot of fear, guilt and worry, all of which makes it so much harder to parent calmly, with empathy and kindness.

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u/Arodg25 9d ago

I think it's because when they were spanking, most parents were likely in there 20's. They were kids less than 10 years ago. as grandparents they've had some time to grow.

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u/BFNentwick 9d ago

I noted it above, but the stresses are also different.

As parents were are still trying to build a retirement plan, raise kids, progress in our jobs, and on and on. As a grandparent most of your life and planning is done, you just have fewer highly consequential responsibilities.

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u/xxCDZxx 9d ago

I think this is because they are essentially part time carers and they can hand the kid back when it gets too much.

Which strongly suggests that the majority of corporal punishment is out of frustration and not conscious parenting.

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u/paxinfernum 9d ago

I went through something similar. My evangelical parents frequently spanked my older sister and me based on that stupid Dobson book. I'm talking spankings for even trying to dodge the belt during spankings. Spanking for being "defiant" could be for something as natural as crying too much after a spanking.

Then, they had my little sister, and my dad decided he loved her, and spankings were off the table for her. They didn't decide spanking was wrong. They just decided she never needed to be spanked.

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u/geoffbowman 9d ago

That’s terrible. At least my folks had pressure from the government… yours just picked a favorite :/

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u/paxinfernum 9d ago

Yep. I'm definitely holding onto a lot of bitterness about that. The worst thing is that she's the child who idolizes my dad the most and refuses to see how abusive he was to the other children.

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u/bartharris 9d ago

When I went to mandatory fostering classes we were told we are not allowed to spank foster kids in our care.

I said, “isn’t that illegal anyway?”

The class leader shook her head sadly but another prospective foster parent said: “I hope not.” I felt nauseous.

I sent the leader an email later saying that I felt the class should have more emphasis on spanking being a bad thing in general.

The response was that while she sympathised with my position and was happy I felt that way but it is only her job to teach dos and don’ts pertaining to California law in regard to fostering.

I hear that many foster parents abuse and neglect children in their care and feel that the person who spoke in defence of spanking should have been immediately disqualified.

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u/loquedijoella 9d ago

By CA law you can spank a kid, but hitting them with an object like a belt or a paddle is abuse. I was hit with a paddle by the principal in elementary school in the early 80s in California. Things have changed but not fast enough.

Edit: removed redundant word

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u/jvc1011 9d ago

Sadly, that’s untrue. I’m a mandated reporter for two reasons here and have to go through two kinds of annual child abuse training. The law in California is very murky and tends to be interpreted differently by different judges. It’s in no way illegal to use an object to spank; it is only illegal if it’s deemed inhumane/cruel or if it leaves a mark. It should be illegal. It isn’t.

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u/-YellowcakeUranium 9d ago

I was beaten and hit with objects at Valley of the Moon in California :( I hope things have changed.

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u/SeasonPositive6771 9d ago

I work in child safety and I'm sad to say that California is one of the best in these situations.

I don't work for CPS but I can say in their defense, you can't get angry CPS doesn't protect kids when they literally can't protect kids. They can't stop people from hitting their children. They definitely can't stop emotional abuse and manipulation.

Some time ago, research started showing that family unification was really important. Families that were given the support they needed were able to thrive and it was much better for the kids to stay with the family. However, politicians saw that it also saved a lot of money and they hoped to cut out the expensive part of the equation - the part where families got the resources and support they need. That, combined with a history of trying and often failing to do child safety during a time when we had no solid research backing up child safety decisions, led to an absolute obsession with family unification. But child safety and good family development is a messy, expensive, complicated endeavor.

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u/wogglay 9d ago

That's odd. In the UK you would be struck off for hitting a fostered child maliciously and wouldn't get through registration if you expressed that you were okay with any form of physical chastisement and maintained that view.

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u/jvc1011 9d ago

That is true here, too, but plenty of people pretend to change their view or keep quiet and do it anyway. And our decentralized system does a very poor job when it comes to protection. There are plenty of excellent foster parents out there, but a lot of folks who should not be approved are approved anyway, often by municipalities that are desperate for any kind of caregivers. In some places, the shortage is so acute that children are put into juvenile detention because no family can be found.

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u/Dman993 9d ago

I think it will just take a couple more generations for spanking to be out of the norm. We are just one or 2 generations away from there being almost no concern and most parents using spankings or worse on a regular basis.

It is a pattern of abuse from one generation to the next until finally one generation says enough, I won't do my kids like that.

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u/BurntPoptart 9d ago

This should be something all parents need to do before taking the baby home.

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u/scaredofme 9d ago

Agreed! I mean, I had to watch a video and sign something about shaken baby syndrome. Why not?! If it saves one kid.

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u/macroswitch 9d ago

Really? Other than a lactation consultation and a car seat check before leaving, we got zero guidance on what to do and what not to do at the hospital. It felt like we were getting away with a crime as we left the hospital with our newborn.

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u/ittlebittles 9d ago

All I got was a lactation consult. No car seat check. And honestly, I feel like they could have done a better job about checking on me and my baby after leaving the hospital cause I’m a recovering heroin addict. I was using when I found out I was pregnant and I told the doctor I was. I went to rehab immediately Ayer my doctor appointment and stayed for Month. Then when I had my daughter they did a urine screen on me and since it was clean that was that. They sent us home. Of course I ended up relapsing and giving my daughter to my mom cause I knew she needed to be away from me. But I honestly thought at least children’s services or somebody would come check on me and make sure I wasn’t using with a newborn. And today I have 2 years and 3 months clean. I just got back custody last year. She is 7 now. I was always in her life, but now I’m finally her mom.

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u/gyllyupthehilly 9d ago

Proud of you! Mum of recovering addict here, you're amazing!

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u/yellowwalks 9d ago

I'm proud of you. That's a lot of hard work and determination you've put in, and I hope you and her can enjoy lots of time together.

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u/TGotAReddit 9d ago

People like you need to be advocating to our politicians and hospitals to get things changed

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u/Raichu7 9d ago

Governments who really care about protecting the children would provide free childcare classes to every citizen old enough to reproduce.

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u/aaaaayyyyyyyyyyy 9d ago

Around here we have to be careful about what power we give the government because the crazy Christians will corrupt it to push circumcision, “teach the controversy” about why they should baptize the baby, etc.

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u/FireHeartSmokeBurp 9d ago

This would be after complaining that the government is trying to police how to raise their children. Not to mention that the classes would likely be paid out of pocket and thus less accessible to marginalized populations. Any attempt to make it publicly funded would be met with pushback

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u/scaredofme 9d ago

Haha, totally. Like, umm, are you sure I can be trusted to keep this thing alive??

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u/hostile65 9d ago

Early childhood development classes should be required to get a tax break for the child. Provide the classes for free with workable schedules that way no parent has an excuse

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u/[deleted] 9d ago

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u/[deleted] 9d ago

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u/madrid1979 9d ago

My mom’s line: “oh shut up, you don’t know what abuse is…”

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u/The_Condominator 9d ago

You look at how they parented us, and the whole world makes more sense.

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u/breakone9r 9d ago

We had a preemie, we had to take ALL KINDS of similar training to be able to take her home when she was big enough. She's 15 now, and doesn't hate us, so I think we did alright.

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u/[deleted] 9d ago

Really puts one's upbringing of switches, paddles, belts, and bare hand smacks into perspective.

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u/evhan55 9d ago

bare hand smack right to the face, I can still feel it

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u/1stMammaltowearpants 9d ago

My sister and I were hit when we were growing up and now she hits her kids, too. Whenever I can, I tell her that spanking is a last resort and we should stop at the resort before that one. You're usually just attacking your child because you're frustrated.

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u/OkSmoke9195 9d ago

Who thinks they have the right to hit a CHILD. It's so bizarre, bordering on psychopathic imho

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u/1corn 9d ago

I don't understand how hitting children is still legal, one of the weirdest aspects of modern society to me. I can't imagine hitting my son at all, absolutely repulsive idea.

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u/Top-Arugula-6163 9d ago

Watched the same situation unfold with my brother. My family has a history of suicides, depression, drug abuse, etc.

Interesting was that he never touched any drugs or even alcohol, but he hit his kids (in his mind always strategically and never out of anger, they all say/convince themselves of this) and all 3 of his kids have substance abuse issues and horrible self-esteem.

I never had kids, so I don't have my own example but I knew it was important to solve the depression and anger issue inside me before ever starting a family.

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u/GreenLurka 9d ago

I've got kids and I'd never hit them. But there's definitely times were I go 'I can see why people hit their kids', and it's not about punishment or teaching behaviour. It's purely frustration.

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u/amazingmollusque 9d ago

There is a good body of scientific evidence, yes. Unfortunately some people seem to really want to hit kids.

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u/Hyfrith 9d ago

I wonder if parents who hit their kids do it because they believe it's right and that it works to make them better humans (which the science disproves), or if it's because they have little control of their own emotions and strike out in anger.

It's anecdotal, but child abusers often don't seem to also be calm, rational, emotionally mature adults.

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u/mescalelf 9d ago

The answer is “Yes”. My parents were not shy about hitting me; they’ve changed an awful lot since I left home, but they used to both think it was a valid/effective disciplinary strategy and, without a shadow of a doubt, had severe emotional regulation difficulties.

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u/jaroomba 9d ago

You can't ignore the effect religion has on this discussion. Many Christians will dismiss any science that contradicts their religious doctrine.

My father literally told me he didn't think he would ever be able to babysit my daughter if we thought hitting kids was wrong (because of his religious beliefs). That statement ended our relationship.

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u/Thrabalen 9d ago

"But if I can't hurt a defenseless minor for my own kicks, what do I get out of it?"

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u/jaroomba 9d ago

I know you're joking, but the reality is they think it's necessary. And if an adult thinks hitting children is necessary, they are not in any way equipped to be parents or caretakers. Kids can be very annoying and will exhaust your patience. One of the most important behaviors we model for our children is what we do when we are frustrated and out of patience. If we react with violence, they will learn to be violent.

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u/Top-Arugula-6163 9d ago

They don't really and truly believe that. At least my parents didn't. They did it out of anger and what you state is what they convinced themselves of.

I stopped talking to my family a long time ago as I was the youngest and all three of them (brother, mother and father) would still continue to say I deserved to be hit as often as I did because of things I would say and that I'd never let them win an argument. Being trained that standing up for myself verbally will result in physical aggression has not gone well for me.

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u/there-err-were 9d ago

If we react with violence, they will learn to be violent.

Or become really kind, gentle people who would never be violent, except they took so much psychological damage that they live in an endless cycle of incompetence and shame, hindered in everything they do and all of their relationships, affecting their income/ability to afford therapy and improve their circumstances, and leaving them exponentially more at risk for any number of physical health conditions.

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u/mynametobespaghetti 9d ago

I'm a big believer that corporal punishment teaches kids it's ok to physically hurt people if they annoy you. It makes sense that it's a cycle.

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u/trashdemons 9d ago

I started self-harming in kindergarten because I was never shown how to deal with big feelings like frustration and anger. Instead I learned that yeah, whipping my legs with a wire hanger DOES make this awful tense build up of frustration over being unable to figure out my math homework go away. I could understand now why she'd hit me whenever she was mad at me. But the older I got, the bigger my problems got, and the worse I had to hurt myself to shut those feelings off. It was what had I had been taught my whole life though- if you mess up, you deserve physical pain.

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u/Much_Difference 9d ago

I cannot fathom how people convince themselves otherwise. People cannot possibly think that the punishment is both powerful enough to teach the child morality and behavior modification but also that the child could not possibly take away the message that it's okay to hit people when they do things you don't want them to do. "It works so well; he'd never do it himself!"??

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u/Miryafa 9d ago

By contrast, I understand social isolating punishments like making a child go to their room causes other kinds of harm. I haven’t yet seen a form of discipline that both doesn’t cause harm and actually works.

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u/sylbug 9d ago

You have to talk to, mirror, and empathize with your child while ensuring that their basic needs are met. You also have to work through developmental phases, rather than punish your way through them. The vast majority of childhood issues do not require punishment, and in many cases punishment makes them worse.

Take tantrums, for instance. It's perfectly normal for a small child to have tantrums because they are just learning to manage their emotions and have very little control of their environment. Punishing doesn't do a thing, because this is just a normal developmental stage - instead, you have to help the child learn to manage their emotions.

You start by meeting the child's basic needs. This is essential to avoid setting the kid up for failure - if they're hungry, exhausted, or overwhelmed then they're going to rightly have a lot of big emotions, just as adults do in the same circumstances. Listen to the child when they express a need, and watch for signs that overwhelm is coming so you can remove them/set them up for success rather than failure.

Next, demonstrate effective management of emotions. This means when you are feeling angry, overwhelmed, etc, you are not behaving in an inappropriate manner. If you're screaming at your kid, throwing things, blaming others for your emotions, and so on, then you're not going to teach your kid healthy habits. A lot of parents never learned to manage their own emotions effectively, and those parents should seek out professional guidance so they can manage this step.

Next, is teaching the child skills to regulate themselves. Validate them when they have an emotion and name the emotion. Tell them that yes, it can be scary if there's a loud noise and you can feel angry when someone takes your toy. Avoid the common forms of gaslighting that parents sometimes fall into - that doesn't hurt, you don't have a reason to cry, etc. Give the child tools to self-sooth, and remind them to self-soothe/guide them through it if they are starting to spiral.

Next is the event itself. If your child reaches the point of being overwhelmed and starts having a tantrum, then remove the child from excessive stimulus (a store, a party, etc) to a quiet place and allow them to feel their emotions. Hug them if you can, be with them without judging or punishing until they calm down. Then, talk about what happened - what feelings came up, what could they do differently and what can they do next time.

This will help your child learn to regulate their emotions in a healthy way, without outbursts, blame, or repression. It will take time, because everything with kids takes time to do right, and you can't 'parent' your way out of a developmental stage no matter how frustrating that stage may be.

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u/The_Real_Baldero 9d ago

Hey! Have you read Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child by Dr. John Gottman? You 100% described his Emotion Coaching steps. It's based on the techniques used by parents who's kids turned out pretty well in longitudinal studies. Pretty cool stuff!

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u/sylbug 9d ago

I haven't, but I appreciate the recommendation! I'll definitely check it out.

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u/Rydralain 9d ago

Is there evidence that "natural consequences" punishments cause harm? By that I just mean "you hit someone with this toy so I took it from you to keep everyone safe" or "you are out of control and dangerous, so we're moving away from other peope to a place you can collect yourself" type 'punishments'.

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u/worriedshuffle 9d ago

The problem is that natural consequences are sparse and severe. In RL this is called sparse rewards. The best way to learn is with immediate feedback. If feedback is separated from the action it is biologically harder for the brain to associate the two.

If you get beat up as a kid for stealing toys, you might learn not to steal. Or you might learn to be sneakier. Being sneaky works great until you get older and the consequence becomes jail, permanent record, and employability concerns.

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u/Dustydevil8809 9d ago

And it's best with any consequence to be related to the action you are disciplining. ie: If a kid gets mad and throws a toy they like, they lose that toy for the day. If the kid gets mad and throws a toy and in return they lose screen time, it is less effective.

It's hard to do with every situation, but it is the most effective.

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u/Gratefulgirl13 9d ago

We used this method. Worked perfectly and easily with the first two kids. The third one was built differently. By day two there was no more room on top of the fridge for the things he had thrown or hit someone with. It took a long time of consistent non emotional responses before it finally clicked with him. It was exhausting but eventually successful. All three grew up communicating their feelings instead of just acting on them. Wish my parents would have given me that skill!

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u/Dustydevil8809 9d ago

Yes! Exactly! So many people thing “gentle parenting” doesn’t work for all kids because they give up by the “day two” part of your story. It does work, it just takes a ton of repetition and time. This is one of the reasons we see spanking so much more in lower income households, because the time is such a limited asset, and it’s hard to deal with after working a blue collar job all day.

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u/0-90195 9d ago

Man, you should have told childhood me that it was damaging to be sent to my room. That was my favorite punishment! That’s where all my books were! And my bed!

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u/disappointed_moose 9d ago

My mother once said "I should lock you out of your room instead of sending you to it. It feels like I'm rewarding you when I send you to your room"

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u/Lopsided_Plane_3319 9d ago

Hahaha same. Then they noticed and I wasn't allowed to read

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u/xxxNothingxxx 9d ago

I mean there is a reason it's illegal in certain countries

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u/Hugh-Manatee 9d ago

I'd be curious if there is an income effect there, though. That poorer families tend to spank more, and people who grow up in poor families are more likely to develop issues w/ drug abuse, etc.

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u/Hemingwavy 9d ago

After you control for income spanking is still only positively associated with short term compliance. After that all the results we have measured are negative.

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u/geredtrig 9d ago edited 9d ago

Something about

Second is the teacher who is feared, for their control only lasts whilst they remain in the room, first is the teacher who is respected they can leave the room and nothing changes.

I wish I could remember it but you get the point.

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u/chango137 10d ago

My cousin argued that spanking was less traumatic for her son because she asked him if he'd rather be spanked or have his tablet taken away...

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u/tiptoeintotown 10d ago

That’s stunning in a not good way.

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u/Doggleganger 9d ago

Yea, especially since the two problems are related. UCSF had a study that showed that children that used tablets with social media had a 62% higher prevalence of oppositional defiance disorder. So the tablet is a major reason why the child behaved poorly and is being punished to begin with.

Coupled with known addiction qualities of tablets, of course the child will refuse to give up the tablet. They're addicted, just like alcohol or drugs. So the child will just blame the parent for hitting them without any impact on the bad behavior.

This parent-child relationship is headed straight for the shitter.

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u/MrMojorisin521 9d ago

Do you think a similar effect, if not quite as strong, effect would’ve been true for television watching kids vs the kids with hippie parents that didn’t let them watch tv? Because the more I look back hippie parents seem wiser and wiser.

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u/Doggleganger 9d ago

The study covered this. TV, video games, and other forms of screen time are connected to some increases in disruptive behavior, ranging from 14-22%, but nothing has ever come close to social media on tablets, at a whopping 62%. It's staggering.

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2022/07/423256/elevated-tween-screen-time-linked-disruptive-behavior-disorders

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u/FireHeartSmokeBurp 9d ago

Depending on the parent, the tablet may also be used as a coping mechanism. I didn't have the tech growing up kids do now but I was always on my iPod Touch 2 (no mic and no camera days). I would have likely been shamed for it today but what it was hiding was I was extremely depressed, largely because of terrible bullying at school combined with emotionally negligent parents at home who were also incredibly controlling, psychologically abusive, and narcissistic. That iPod Touch was pretty much my only source of peace and I mainly used it to read and to talk to people on a forum of some obscure mobile game, no major social media, for just any positive social interaction. I used the screen to shut out a world that was painful to live in and was a healthier way to remove myself from said world than the more permanent alternative I regularly considered and even acted on a few times.

Obviously not every parent who spanks their kids is a monster, but it is worth noting that many people who hit their kids are problematic as parents and people in other ways. The screen isn't always the thing creating problems in the child, sometimes it's the child's way of removing themselves from problems in the outside world. Obviously the introduction and prevalence of social media makes things far more complicated, just wanted to offer a different perspective.

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u/joe_nasty 9d ago

People thought I was crazy smart when I was young. I'm not.

But I did read ALL THE TIME to escape an emotionally oppressive environment.

Im seeing similar behavior in my niece, but am reluctant to speak up because my brother and his wife are very touchy.

Also was spanked, a lot.

And still, at 42, after a major drug habit, poor self control around food, and an inability to emotionally regulate myself (I'm working on this hard), I'm still way too comfortable with violence and often it's my first instinct when I'm met with racist microaggressions.

I really, really need to move back out of red state america.

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u/cmdrsamuelvimes 10d ago

Children have always been known for their rational and logical decision making.

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u/StonechildHulk 9d ago

That's far more rational than you would think for a kid atleast. A brief painful punishment or a few hours without what is probably his favorite thing. Comes down to he wanted it over quickly instead of a less severe but longer punishment.

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u/RobMcD222 9d ago

My niece lived with us from 2-6 yo, went back to her parents and then would come out and stay with us for the summer. The summer she was 7, she kept mentioning times she had been spanked. I said, "even if we did believe in spanking, you never do anything worthy of spanking at this point, what's the deal?" (She'd been a really angry toddler who needed therapy, we still never spanked her).

And she said basically at least half the time with her parents she got away with it, and the spanking was quick whereas my husband and I noticed everything and made her think about what she had done so she didn't think it was worth doing naughty stuff with us because she'd feel bad about it.

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u/Jimmyginger 10d ago

I had a classmate in middle school who was excited that he was "old enough to get his ass beat". The way he saw it, he could endure any beating his dad gave him, and no longer had to suffer the consequences of being grounded when he got into trouble.

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u/Viperbunny 10d ago

Wow. Lazy parenting at its finest. It can be hard to be a good parent because you have to deal with your child having big emotions when you take away something like a tablet. But learning how to manage that is part of life. Sometimes, punishing my kids is harder on me because I have to enforce it. It may mean I don't get to watch TV, or can't go somewhere I want or do something I want. But that is part of being a parent! You have to teach kids how to be adults. That's what they are here to learn to do! They don't come out knowing how or have the full capacity to do it. We have to help them.

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u/Dannyzavage 10d ago

Whats an effective way to punish a tablet kid or a kid throwing a temper tantrum at a store?

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u/___lalala___ 10d ago

Take away the tablet. Consistently. Have clear rules and consequences, and follow up every time.

For a kid throwing a tantrum in the store, leave. And follow through with whatever consequence had been established. I recognize that this can be difficult. Set yourself up for success, for example with toddlers, do your grocery shopping after nap and/or meal so you're not dealing with a hungry, tired child.

I've raised four kids, never spanked any of them.

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u/slapyomumsillyb4ido 10d ago

Any advice for a two year old that likes to slap faces? I’m 100% serious.

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u/burkechrs1 10d ago Gold

2 year olds are difficult. The best thing to do is continue to reinforce that is not acceptable behavior. Eventually their brain will grow enough to connect dots and with your hopefully consistent reinforcement of right and wrong they will begin to make the correct decisions.

My 7 year old had violent tendencies and it all stemmed from his inability to properly understand and process his emotions. He's been a hitter since he was 2ish and finally started to correct those issues around 5 and a half years old. Once he began recognizing his actions were wrong we would sit him down and walk him through everything.

What happened? My sister annoyed me. How did you feel? Mad. What did you do? Oh you hit your sister. Why did you hit her? Because I was mad. Is that the right thing to do, is hitting ok? No. Ok, instead of hitting her what could we have done? You can ask her to stop, you can walk away and go to the other room. You can come find me or mommy and tell us how you're feeling and say you need help with your sister. It's never ok to hit anybody, especially your sister. Please go tell her sorry and let her know that you were upset but it wasn't ok to hit her and make sure she is ok.

After months of feeling like we are beating our head against the wall with these weekly conversations with him, there was finally a last time he hit his sister and hasn't hit her since. He now expresses himself and brainstorms a solution to his frustration and tries different approaches. Sometimes he misses the mark and we talk it out, other times he nails his response and we praise him for it. Now that he's getting more mature we are starting to talk to him about why his sister or other people are acting the way they are acting. Now that he's getting a grip on his own emotions we are starting to direct him to try to understand the emotions of others.

It takes time and most importantly you have to be consistent.

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u/Draxonn 10d ago

https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2019/03/13/685533353/a-playful-way-to-teach-kids-to-control-their-anger

I love this approach. Model to your children that hitting others is hurtful. Often we attempt to rationalize non-violence, without them clearing understanding what the impact is on others.

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u/CaptainRedBeerd 10d ago

man, you sound like a good parent. I never learned how to regulate my own emotions very well which makes parenting 2 under 2 really difficult. I'm just trying to be patient and set the example as often as I can and not be too hard on myself when I don't.

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u/SlowLoudEasy 9d ago

Patience is your strongest tool. You can out last any tantrum or misbehavior, their mood will change, but their memory of your reaction will last. I am an oak tree as far as my daughters(3 and 7) are concerned. When I set a boundary or expectation, they follow it with very little reminding because they know I wont waver. And consequences are real world consequences. Bed time is 7:30, if you want access to a screen or to hang out and work in my art studio, then you need to have eaten dinner, cleaned the table, brushed your teef, and put clothes in hamper. They know the expectations and self regulate their routine. If they really want extra screen time or one on one with me, they will get it all done sooner.

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u/wilsonhammer 9d ago

You are an oak tree. Props

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u/Skolanthropy 9d ago

Boundaries.

Expectations.

Consistency.

You got it. No drama. Just rules. Kids are happy when they know that they have the power to get what they want and make mama/ dad happy.

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u/Spadeykins 9d ago

You should know emotional dysregulation is a core component of ADHD. If you haven't seen a doctor it may be worth checking into.

Many people do not realize this is one of the prominent symptoms for ADHD and less so the hyperactivity everyone associates with it.

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u/are_those_real 9d ago

You should also know that a good parent with a authoritative (not authoritarian) actually helps kids with ADHD perform better in school. Often times kids with ADHD's actions leads to a parent becoming more authoritarian because the parents learn that by yelling or increasing stakes it causes the kid to listen/obey faster. This does not teach them how to regulate themselves and create better coping mechanisms for it.

Funny enough, you give that kid stimulants and their grades go up. One study showed that it turns out it wasn't the stimulants that led to the higher grades but that parenting style changed as a result of the kid being able to transition out of hyperfocusing. When tested the kids with ADHD performed about the same with stimulants as with parents who were more authoritative parent style.

My hypothesis is that ADHD kids with authoritarian leads to an anxiety response instead of a regulatory response. So they're reacting instead of learning. Teaching kids to react to anxiety instead of regulating is also what leads to a lot of problems as they get older.

I have ADHD and although my parents weren't the best (trust me there is plenty of religious trauma there) they did a good job sitting with me and taking the time to teach me as well as reward my hyperfocusing on niche subjects. However, the few times they did spank me I won't ever forget and they associated it with the phrase "we hit you because we love you" and that's a whole other set of problems I won't go in detail here.

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u/seehp 9d ago

That is the same for adult ADHD: Authoritarian manager will only produce anxiety, while supportive managers will help people grow and learn.

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u/VBB67 10d ago

Teaching empathy has got to be the hardest lesson. I’m glad you are trying. The world needs more people who persist teaching this to resistant children, in a loving way. Thank you.

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u/_catkin_ 9d ago

At least it’s something that can be modelled and taught by example. Put yourself in their shoes and demonstrate to them that you have. Discuss things when they’re older like the differences in how people might perceive a situation or their motivations.

Don’t be afraid to show a little hurt and upset sometimes if they hurt and upset you (not too much of course but enough for them to learn the consequences of their actions).

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u/stonecoldchilipeps 9d ago

Thank you for this, this is what I try to do with my kids but sometimes it feels like I'm just not getting through to them and I'm talking to a wall. Good to know it eventually pays off

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u/ReckoningGotham 9d ago

Every time it happens, just pull their hand away and say "no" very calmly every single time.

Repetition and calmness reinforce it. Also, be ready to honor when your toddler says "no" in other scenarios, otherwise the word won't make sense to them

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u/harmonytruetone 9d ago

@biglittlefeelings and @themompsychologist are great Instagram accounts with evidence-based behavior management strategies- I'd highly recommend them!

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u/_catkin_ 9d ago

My son was a bit physically aggressive sometimes, when he was angry or upset. The worst thing I ever did was tell him I could hit back harder. Instant regret. Obviously he remembered and threw it back at me next time he was upset. I didn’t hit him btw. In the moment I had the idea to teach him to be careful who he picks a fight with but it was totally the wrong thing to do and made him more aggressive.

Time and patience are the main things. I realised I had to help him learn how to communicate and manage his big emotions. There were times I just walked away and shut the door on him, but mostly I focused on trying to get him to learn that hitting hurt me emotionally and how to communicate better. He’s a really affectionate kid and generally very well behaved and reasonable.

I once read about how the Inuit have a strategy of stories and play fighting or something? Child hits then and they start up with “oh, don’t you love me?” in what seemed to me to be an exaggerated and playful way. Takes the edge off and teaches a lesson. It seemed to help us a bit.

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u/TerrakSteeltalon 10d ago

Yeah, you're in for a long road. But you need to be consistent is the big thing. And no sane person claims that 2 year olds are easy to work with.
But hitting a 2yo is just going to create fear.

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u/oceansofmyancestors 10d ago

Very common as they are poor communicators, get frustrated easily and have no control over emotions. Work on all three. Get in there before they blow up, gtab their hand before they hit, identify the emotion they are feeling (you’re mad/frustrated/angry whatever), it’s ok to be (mad) but not ok to hit. We can stop our feet, we can yell IM MAD!, we can hit a pillow. Don’t just teach what’s wrong, teach what’s right

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u/Global_Loss6139 9d ago

100% the dont just teach wrong, teach whats right! They dont know what to do! So say this is bad, DO this instead so they know what to do.

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u/LeighCedar 10d ago edited 10d ago

Catch their hands in your hands, and tell them you are holding them to keep both of you safe. "You can't let them hit. It looks like you feel frustrated, and that must be tough. Can you think of anything that might help you feel better? Would you like to jump on the couch/trampoline or do some rough house wrestling? "

If that doesn't work, tell them you will remove yourself from the room if they can't stop slapping, then do so.

Debrief later when they've had time to calm down and process.

Edit: I want to say this is not meant as judgemental at all, but if you can at all, you should start to wean your child off of having their own tablet.

Screens are terrible for children's developing brains, and they don't teach regulation. For example in Canada our health authority recommends 0 screen time for children under 2. Between two and five years old should be less than an hour a day.

It's tough, it sucks, but your child and life will be better for it if you can reduce it going forward.

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u/Global_Loss6139 9d ago

The people below answered really well!! One thing I heard to was say "No " bored or like dont get high energy. Like excited yelling "No" bc they sometimes like the reactions. Just say no and move their hands away. Then go get excited about a fun behavior they can do.

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u/Franklin_le_Tanklin 9d ago

I’m going through this with my kid.

First slap is “no” with a stern face and pointing at them.

Second slap I put them down and walk away (as long as we’re somewhere where I can do this safely like at home).

This causes my daughter to bawl her eyes out. The consequence of slapping is no being held or cuddles from dad.

It’s hard. It hurts me to do it. But she needs to learn you can’t slap someone and keep getting affection.

After 5 minutes of crying I ask if she wants to be picked up. She puts her arms up. I say “I’ll pick you up only if you don’t slap me”.

And put her down immediately if she does it again.

She’s getting better at it. We’re also working on being gentle with the dog. It takes a lot of patience.

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u/tytbalt 9d ago

This is a good answer. I work with kids with behavior problems. You don't need to punish them, they just need to experience a natural consequence for their actions. I would also recommend trying to find out what she is trying to communicate when she hits, and then work on teaching her words or gestures to use to communicate instead.

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u/friendlyfireworks 9d ago

What do you do if they hate grocery shopping and learn that anytime they throw a tantrum you will leave the store- essentially getting what they want, which is to not be there?

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u/IchBinEinFrankfurter 9d ago edited 9d ago

Not OP but I’ll say sometimes you just let them throw their tantrum, and learn that they don’t get what they want that way.

Since becoming a parent I’ve come to realize that a lot of the time when you overhear a kid crying in the next aisle over or whatever, you shouldn’t default to “man what awful parenting” because what you’re hearing is the kid being parented, and learning that they don’t get what they want by screaming. Every time I’ve ever tried to lessen the pain of a hard lesson for my kid by attempting to remove them from it, I’ve regretted it later because they don’t learn.

It does suck, but it’s a process. These kids aren’t born knowing how to function in society - that has to be taught. So at some point you have to just grit your teeth and drag a crying kid through the store, but I try to approach it from a calm place, be consistent about your expectations of them, and have a “debrief” after either praising good behavior, or (after settling down) explaining how it wasn’t okay to behave like that, and remind them that Mommy and Daddy will never change their mind about something because you throw a fit.

Edit to say - agree 100% percent about being mindful of when and how you do things to avoid the tantrums in the first place. My kids are morning people, so we try to do things like that early when they’re in their best moods. Not afternoon when the Hangriness kicks in. And I’m not trying to denounce just leaving with them either (I do that from time to time) - especially if it’s something you can do later. But sometimes you can’t leave for whatever reason and you just have to deal.

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u/dr_Octag0n 9d ago

Take the child to the return desk. Ask for a refund.

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u/AbueloOdin 10d ago

Root cause analysis.

Why is the temper tantrum happening? If they are young enough, they haven't developed the self control necessary to handle their emotions. So you teach them to deal with their emotions. No punishment necessary.

If they are old enough, then they may have an addiction that you need to help address. So help them address it. No punishment necessary.

Tantrums shouldn't be viewed as "being bad" but more as miscommunication.

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u/Aclopolipse 10d ago

I've heard that tantrums happen at a particular age because, even though they have some communication ability, their needs are more complex than their ability to communicate them. So they get frustrated and lash out.

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u/cyberlogika 9d ago

100%. Imagine you're in a foreign country and you don't speak the language, but you're having severe pains and you need a hospital immediately....

You have no way to communicate this to anyone, so what do you do? You yell, scream and make a scene until someone helps you.

That's exactly what they are going through when they just want more goldfish because the hunger hurts and they want it to stop, for example.

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u/DECtape 10d ago

Not tried it personally but apparently setting the tablet to greyscale mode makes some kids lose interest in it.

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u/Viperbunny 10d ago

It depends highly on the situation and what the child responds to. When I take away tablets, my kids will get upset. I explain why they have lost it and that the more they argue with me the less likely I am to believe they should get it back.

In a store, if you can you remove the child. If not, and people hate it, but say they do this every time to stop you from shopping, but you need groceries. You go anyway and you ignore them. You don't give into the tantrum. People think this is terrible parenting because people should control their kids, but kids aren't something to easily control. They are smart and are going to find ways to get their way and you have to be measured and appropriate (which can be hard in the moment). I won't judge a parent with a crying kid when the kid isn't getting what they want. Why? Because the parent isn't giving in. The kid is trying something and it doesn't work. It is far worse seeing people cave to tantrums because they fear stares and judgement.

Parenting is tough.

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u/NoRefrigerator742 9d ago

Research by Alan Kazdin at Yale's Parenting Center found that praise for good behavior is far better than punishment for bad behavior in terms of creating good outcomes. The way to generate this is by waiting for good behavior and praising it. It could even involve ignoring bad behavior at times.

However, if for some reason you can't, punishment for bad behavior should generally be a 2 to 10 minute timeout.

You can find his papers here:

https://scholar.google.com/citations?user=wXIOwRoAAAAJ&hl=en&oi=sra

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u/cursedalien 9d ago

If you ever happen to find yourself on the r/teachers subreddit, you'll see a lot of discussion about this. Most schools have adopted the PBIS model, which is basically what is described here. The focus is on rewarding positive behavior instead of punishing bad behavior. Studies seem to suggest this works, but teachers mostly seem to think it's a failed experiment. Kind of interesting to see a disconnect between the results of scientific studies versus the real world experience of professionals who actively apply these techniques every day.

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u/Common_Bobcat_2064 9d ago

As a teacher the past six years now from grades 6-12, I actually have seen students abuse PBIS systems. The word spreads quickly that there is no serious consequences to their misbehaviors other than a chat. Half of the time, students would misbehave to look “cool” to their peers. Since moving to a school that has zero tolerance, misbehaviors have gone down immensely. It’s anecdotal, but you’re right to question the study—especially if you see the effects negatively impact other students.

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u/cursedalien 9d ago

The education field has always had trouble finding nuance and middle ground. It went from beating kids with a ruler and sticking a dunce cap on them to completely ignoring the bad behavior all together. It went from "no child left behind" to somehow having entire classes of middle schoolers who are essentially illiterate. The pendulum somehow always manages to swing too far in the other direction. As for PBIS, I think a heavy emphasis on rewarding positive behavior is good, but also having consistent and meaningful consequences for bad behavior is also equally beneficial for a childs development.

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u/diptripflip 9d ago

At a district wide training last year we were told we could no longer use the word consequences with students. So, yeah.

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u/ReygunzMedia 9d ago

Growing up, I had very little praise for good behavior and was punished by spanking with a maybe 1/4" diameter (that seems big to me right now; I need to look at a ruler) rod until I was a teen. As a teen, I was screamed at and threatened with physical abuse. I have anxiety, negative self-talk, and probably a messed up view of intimacy. Overall, I'm lucky, but what is the worst is that I know my parents meant well, but it's their unwillingness to admit their wrongs that I want very little to do with them. Even as I am well into my adulthood, I am gaslit on any subject about my childhood.

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u/sonoskietto 10d ago

Talking out of turn? That's a paddlin'. Lookin' out the window? That's a paddlin'. Staring at my sandals? That's a paddlin'. Paddlin' the school canoe? Oh, you better believe that's a paddlin'.

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u/Any_Monitor5224 10d ago

Nice to see this validated.

There still seems to be a segment of the population in the US that thinks the idea is to scare/shame/beat their kids into submission.

I long for a day when we realize discipline is for teaching and not for punishing.

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u/wasdninja 10d ago

Validated again. It's the same result every time for the last 50 years or so. Hitting children, when phrased differently, is still not universally seen as bad for some reason.

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u/dancin-weasel 10d ago

Let’s do a study to see if physical violence from someone twice your size and in almost total control of your life makes kid feel powerless

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u/loverlyone 10d ago

Powerless AND reduces grey matter in the brain. Honestly a controlling abuser’s dream outcome.

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u/Happy_rich_mane 10d ago

I think a lot of it is that people who use this type of punishment were subjected to it themselves and if they were to question their parenting methods they would have to confront their own abusive childhoods and have complicated feelings about their parents and children.

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u/WinoWithAKnife 10d ago

I got hit as a kid and I turned out fine

Person who turned out someone who thinks it's okay to hit kids.

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u/SettleDownAlready 10d ago

I ask them are they really sure they are ok and if you truly are it’s despite the fact that you got hit not because of it.

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u/super-hot-burna 9d ago

I got hit as a kid (by all sorts of stuff). Being spanked was so detrimental to my relationship with my parents. This article articulates many good points.

I’m about to have my first here in a couple months and I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I will never physically harm that child regardless of the situation.

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u/roygbivasaur 9d ago

My parents stopped spanking me when I was 10, and they deeply regret doing it at all and apologized years ago. 20 years later, I still don’t feel comfortable hugging my dad and I find myself having to resist hitting people when they make me mad. I will always take it with a giant pinch of salt when someone says that it didn’t damage them.

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u/zMerovingian 9d ago

It taught me that life is a lot better when my dad was in it as little as possible (he was the type to hit first, then maybe figure out the situation later). If you’re a pro-physical discipline parent, maybe stop and think about that for a moment.

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u/spicysenpai6 9d ago

I got the belt as a kid. If I cried my dad would pick me up by my collar and yell at me to stop crying. Which would just make me cry more. So. As an adult I find it hard t to maintain a lot of close friends. I’m not exactly close to my parents. I used to think it didn’t affect me, but it definitely did.

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u/Happy_rich_mane 9d ago

We are the same, this is my story word for word. I love my parents and they are a big part of my life but I believe being hit when I was young hardened me against them in a way that’s really hard to undo.

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u/harajukukei 10d ago

My children hit each other plenty. No need to add to it.

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u/Briguy24 9d ago

I just had a fight with my brother because he was training his new puppy to wake his daughter by biting her face until she got up.

When he licked my brother would say ‘No! Only bites.’ Be ‘more vicious’, ‘get her’ etc.

He posted it to Facebook and had comments telling him it was adorable. A few people I know reached out to me asking if this was real so I looked it up.

It was disgusting. They had to rehome their last dog because he bit her face when she tried to surprise him awake. She still has scars on her face easily visible.

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u/willnotwashout 9d ago

So... those are crimes. Your brother is a criminal. Your niece was and is in physical danger. If legitimate, this should be acted on immediately.

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u/Briguy24 9d ago

So far I’m the only one who has called it abuse.

He deleted the videos, a comment from one of my friends who was extremely gentle with his wording and now insists it was on licking.

My dad is a huge gaslighter and it looks like my brother is following down his steps. Complete denial.

Just a few weeks earlier he and his wife tried to convince me there are kitty litter boxes in public schools because kids identify as cats. Told them it’s a debunked conspiracy theory and they doubled down.

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u/Quintary 9d ago

Call the authorities

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u/Elelith 9d ago

Yeah seriously, 100% call them.

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u/stYOUpidASSumptions 9d ago

Take a second and imagine what it's like to live in a house where at any moment a dog could bite your face. Because it was trained to attack your face.

Then call CPS.

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u/Aclopolipse 10d ago

People would rather keep insisting that there isn't enough information before reconsidering their own perspective.

You see this with any scientific/academic issue that's become remotely politicized.

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u/long_dickofthelaw 10d ago

But you see, I was hit as a child, and I turned out fine! Except for, you know, the fact that I now have the urge to hit my own child now.

(/s, obviously, in case that was not apparent).

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u/HelenAngel 9d ago

There is a LOT of societal pressure to spank and/or whip your kids in the southern US. When you say you don’t spank, people take it almost as a personal insult. They will insult you, your parenting, throw Bible quotes at you, & so forth. If you took a survey of kids in the southern US, you’d find a vast majority of them were spanked and/or whipped. Whipping seems to be finally recognized as child abuse, at least. But I don’t think CPS would even investigate. Some schools still use paddles & hit students with them.

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u/No-Significance2113 10d ago

There was this youtuber who was talking about using punishment as a way to educate people, he was going through a whole heap of different age groups and cultures. As well as different types of punishments.

Always stuck with me that people assume that it works without any proof, like did they succeed because of the punishment or did the succeed despite being handi capped by being punishment.

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u/[deleted] 10d ago

Yes, but you're saying this about a population that has the highest rate of incarceration in the entire world, all within a penal system that is very very much about penalization and pretty much not even remotely about rehabilitation.

The root of these problems in the US are very very deep.

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u/TheArcticFox444 10d ago

I long for a day when we realize discipline is for teaching and not for punishing.

Here, here! Now, they just need to figure out just how learning happens....

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u/uberneoconcert 10d ago

Learning happens when you show someone. Most of us need to be showed more than once and when we are older, show ourselves more than once to "study." Children's brains are developing and they're learning a lot every day. We have to show them what we want from them and how to do it, usually over and over again and in different contexts over time.

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u/Srnkanator 10d ago

Positive reinforcement. You can't get to a child's mind if you can't connect with their heart first. So much of teaching is emotional, which leads to the social, and then cognitive.

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u/mzpljc 10d ago

There could be a legitimate study showing spanking causes cancer and people would still defend it.

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u/toastthematrixyoda 10d ago

Yep, it's because they cannot think of any other ways to discipline their child. They do not have the tools and don't believe there could possibly be any other tools other than spanking.

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u/HeWhoShantNotBeNamed 10d ago

This isn't the first study to show spanking as harmful but old people frequently reminisce about their past fondly of how they were beaten and "survived".

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u/Tigen13 10d ago

The "survival" though process definitely sums it up nicely. To add additional detail, when people remember their past they apply their current mental framework to past memories.

Memories are actually only 100% accurate until they are accessed. Therefore they often don't remember childhood memories accurately. This is especually true in regards to emotions and thoughts they had as a child related to spankings. I seriously doubt if anyone can remember fully how spankings changed their thoughts and emotions as a child.

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u/rogueblades 10d ago edited 10d ago

I always say the same thing when older folks go on and on about how they were hit and they turned out fine - You didn't "turn out fine" if you think its ok to keep doing that. you think its acceptable to hit kids and that's fucked up. That's not "making it through the other end unscathed", that is "being thoroughly scathed".

Regardless of your perspective on disciplining children, at the point where you have to strike them, you've lost.

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u/recovering_spaz 10d ago

In the US people seem to think it's disloyal to their own parents to be against spanking.

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u/Dblstandard 10d ago

My father used to have my sister pull a switch off the tree if his belt wasn't available.

The irony is that now he gets mad at me if I use any negative reinforcement with my dog.

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u/Time_Ocean 9d ago

I'm 43, a mental health professional, browsing reddit on the bus home...with ice in my gut reading this thread and remembering the things my parents did in the name of 'discipline'. A future where kids don't have to go through that would be one step closer to utopia.

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u/Sukeed 9d ago

My dad's quote was always "spare the rod, spoil the child"

One time I came to school with a limp and a pancake sized bruise on my hip, I was sent to CPS and my dad got arrested.

5 days later a judge released him because there are essentially no laws in my state around physical harm to kids when it's phrased as "corporal punishment"

I went through literally thousands of studies about ACE (adverse childhood experiences) for a college research credit for my neuroscience degree. The vast majority included corporal punishment as an ACE. It was interesting to see results of these studies perfectly replicating the same issues I have now as an adult. I wish therapy wasn't so expensive.

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u/Amlethus 9d ago

Hugs. You deserve love, too.

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u/muppethero80 10d ago

It truly surprises me how many people this study shocks and who dismiss this science. I am glad they are not vocal here, but I’d say the general public is still okay with spanking a child

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u/tiptoeintotown 10d ago

You think it’s that rampant still?

I ask because I don’t spend time around children and really don’t see kids out much or even at my workplace.

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u/vondafkossum 10d ago

Yes. When I worked in public school, we had yearly trainings to differentiate legal “physical correction” from illegal “physical abuse.” The state I worked in had a legal definition of allowable corporal punishment, so we had to be trained how to tell the difference. It’s all the same to me, but the state of South Carolina disagrees.

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u/MadaRook 10d ago

If you have to be trained to tell the difference between physical abuse and physical correction, then perhaps they are the same thing.

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u/vondafkossum 9d ago

As someone who grew up with a young parent who was not emotionally equipped to parent well (and who was also physically abused), I agree. Physical discipline did not “work” on me.

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u/tiptoeintotown 9d ago

I once asked my mom after the threat of a beating “do you think that scares me anymore?”.

It made her angrier.

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u/thechinninator 10d ago

I'd guess its prevalence is regional. In the major city I currently live in? Probably not, at least in the affluent neighborhoods with a higher proportion of educated residents. Back home in a deep red state in the middle of the Bible Belt? The debate was more when it was acceptable than if, last I heard.

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u/cerokurn11 9d ago

Unfortunately not so. Very prevalent across the country, urban and rural. In my experience, you are correct that affluent/educated parents seem to do it less than the rest, but certainly not exempt from it. Source: am an in-home family/children’s therapist

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u/totokekedile 9d ago

I work in a major city, and the attorneys I work with brag about hitting their kids.

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u/longbathlover 9d ago

I live in the Bible Belt in Western NC. Spanking is very common here, including with a belt. I don't spank my kids but grew up getting all manner of physical punishment. The worst was having to pick out my own young, spry, bamboo switches to get punished with. They wrap around your arm/leg/wherever like a true whip. I'll never understand why it's legal and common.

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u/cerokurn11 9d ago

It’s is incredibly prevalent still. I do in-home mental health therapy with kids/families in both rural and urban communities, and I’d say well over half of the families with young children that I’ve worked with were spanking when I first started with them. In my experience, socioeconomic status is the best predictor of whether parents are okay with spanking

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u/[deleted] 10d ago

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/fooliam 9d ago

Notably, the sample sizes varied due to the variability across the
imputed data sets (because children's spanking experiences were
imputed);

This is a huge problem with this study - imputing children's spanking experiences means that, for children they didn't have spanking data on, they assumed one way or the other based on how closely that child reflected other covariates. To put that another way, if they didn't have spanking data on a child, they looked at other things (demographics, teacher evaluations, etc) and determined based on that other data whether or not that child should be considered to be spanked. It is basically fabrication of their categorization variable.

In other parlance, they're training their model on the dataset and then testing the model on the same dataset. This is a huge no-no, but is often permitted in social science research due to a variety of factors.

Further, there is the problem of statistical significance vs meaningfulness. THe author reports that, based on their survey data, that the % of children displaying "externalizing behaviors" ranged from 1.65 in the unspanked to 1.75% in spanked children (Table 1). The magnitude of difference they found was *0.04%* (p < . 01). That is an incredibly small magnitude difference, and speaks more to the ability of very large datasets to show statistically significant differences than it does the meaningfullness of the reported outcomes.

This appears to be another case, as happens so incredibly often with the social sciences, people running off with conclusions that aren't supported by the data, because they are more interested in confirming their per-conceived biases than the actual data.

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u/thegagis 10d ago

Wasn't this topic pretty much conclusively studied before most of us were born, and spanking has been illegal in most developed countries for ages?

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u/NofksgivnabtLIFE 10d ago

Being illegal doesn't mean it doesn't happen a lot.

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u/Endoroid99 10d ago

Still legal in Canada, and if such studies existed before I was born, they certainly weren't common knowledge because spanking was common when I was a kid. I'm 40

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u/sighthoundman 10d ago

Apparently the knowledge existed at least as early as the late 1800s. Training is essentially the same for all mammals. I read a book written by a very successful animal trainer from around 1900 that explained successful training comes from rewarding good behavior, not from punishing bad behavior.

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u/Parafault 10d ago edited 10d ago

I don’t know a single person who wasn’t spanked as a child. At my middle school, my parents even had to sign a paper that authorized the use of spanking and belt whipping as punishment if the school deemed it necessary. This was in the Deep South in U.S.

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u/williamapike 10d ago

I got spanked in elementary school, I’m 34 years old so it’s not like this was too long ago.

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u/sighthoundman 10d ago

"Had to"?

We didn't sign such a paper for our children simply because it gave blanket permission. How can I trust a person I've never met?

It's a way for the school to get out of legal liability. They have enough leeway through governmental immunity anyway, there's no reason to make things easier on them.

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u/[deleted] 10d ago

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u/CuddlyCuddler 10d ago

Seems like the professor knew what he was doing.

That guy that got defensive is a victim with obvious unresolved trauma.

It wouldn’t help him to shame him, force him to confront his trauma, or realize his parents committed crimes against him right then in there in front of an entire class of students.

The professor did the right thing if he simply presented the evidence as an expert, and let the class decide who to believe.

The victim of violent crime can then chew on the facts presented in private, where he is most likely to actually change his beliefs.

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u/EchoRex 10d ago

I couldn't find it in the article or the study, but the questions would be "what is the mean rate of high externalized and low self control behaviors in this age range" and "is behavior leading punishment or is punishment leading behavior".

The study closely matched N in both the "never spanked" and "spanked" groups, but also stated that spanking is more prevalent than never spanked which introduces a bias towards the "never spanked" group's largest percentage behavior result.

Outsize representation of a minority population swings the data... Right?

If that's right-ish though and depending on the mean rate of those behaviors, what this may mean is that the behavior leads the punishment instead of the punishment leading the behavior as presented in the study?

Which would also show that (self reported methods/frequency) spanking as a corrective action just isn't effective, but in a different way.

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u/adarafaelbarbas 10d ago

Not surprising, since it is pretty well established already that abuse has negative effects on everything from cognition to socialization.

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u/tiptoeintotown 10d ago

I think it’s simple: abuse diminishes your positive sense of self.

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u/turbotong 10d ago

Where is the causality from this study? I read the survey-and-test method in the report, but I can't see why this shows causality one way or the other. Are misbehaved kids spanked more due to misbehavior? Or do they misbehave as a result of spanking? I'm using "misbehave" here loosely to refer to externality and lack of social skill.

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u/mikuooeeoo 9d ago edited 9d ago

This is one of those topics for which you will not have a true random experiment because it's unethical. The researchers used a method of variable control called matching. The method is briefly explained in the article:

A technique called matching was used to make the control and treatment groups (spanked vs. not spanked) as similar as possible on various covariates. Covariates included home environment, cultural background, geographic characteristics, child characteristics (e.g., gender, age), and parental characteristics (e.g., race, employment status).

This is a common tool used for social science studies in which true random experiments cannot be done.

TRE are the gold standard, but since there are many questions that can't be answered that way, researchers do their best to account for/isolate other variables. The results of this study are also taken into account with the evidence from other studies on the topic, all of which point to the same conclusions.

It's the same way we know smoking causes cancer. As far as I know there was no randomized experiment, but a number of different studies looking at the same issue pointed to the same conclusion: smoking causes cancer. So, similarly, in light of all the other evidence, the research seems to point to spanking causing these negative outcomes for children.

Hope that helps.

Edit: This is referred to as quasi experimental methods if you want to learn more about it.

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u/pintasaur 10d ago

Always love the argument of “well it happened to me and I turned out fine!” because it really shows that the person in fact did not turn out fine.

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u/imacmadman22 9d ago

I don’t even know how to respond to this, reading the article brings up all kinds of long-hidden emotions, feelings and experiences. Many of them would have been better to have just stayed forgotten.

My parents not only spanked us, they punched us, kicked us, threw things at us, verbally abused and emotionally abused us, called us names and so on. I went to school with bruises, black eyes and fat lips, no one ever said a word and I just kept my mouth shut.

One time I even got my fingers burned for playing with matches, but before anyone defends the practice, just remember the ‘adults’ are the ‘responsible’ ones in the situation. With our own children, we just kept the matches out of sight and we never had a problem.

After years of therapy and medication, I’ve managed to get myself into a place where I am no longer a threat to my own existence. That isn’t to say that I’m ‘cured’ but rather I know the signs of the downward spiral and I know when I need help.

My father died in 2020 and my mother died in 2022 and yes, I do miss them, but I also have to temper those feelings with the side effects of the violence I lived through in my childhood.

Don’t hurt your kids, they’ll never forget it and it may just make them hate you enough that they’ll kill themselves or someone else.

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