A new study suggest that spanking toddlers may cause an increase in aggressive kindergartners. Personally, I choose not to spank my kids. Michael responds better to time outs (away from everyone else) because he is a social creature/thrives on being around other people. Sean is more of an introvert/could care less about a time out, so consequences – such as taking away his favorite thing for a period of time – works better for him. (Sean also has a really soft conscience, so it doesn’t take much for him to be truly sorry and to change his behavior.) Although, I don’t spank, I have some reservations about this study and it’s findings:
1. For one thing, I have a problem with research studies overall. I remember when I took an “Evidence and Research” class while at Columbia. I was so shocked to learn that you can basically make a study say (almost) anything that you like based on the variables that you decide to include/leave out. I have turned a wary eye to every study since then.
2. I find it ironic when studies conclude that something “may” have a certain effect. (So, then are you saying that it may not?)
3. Only 2500 mothers were surveyed. What percentage of the population is that? Very minimal.
4. In my opinion, it is impossible to account for different variables across households. I really don’t think that you can “controll” other factors that affect child aggression. These researchers did not have the kids in the exact same environment over the period of the study.
In most areas of life, I am a “Pollyanna”, but not when it comes to sudy “findings”. Maybe I’m a cynic in this area, but I think that (often) the researchers find the evidence to suppor what they already suspect. Yes, I believe (like studies show) that children imitate their parents behavior, but I also think that children are smart enough to know that they are not other kids’ parents in regards to “corporal” punishment!
Do I think that spanking should be a common, first resort line of discipline? No. Do I think that an occasional spank will make a kid turn into an aggressive bully later in life? No. My opinion: unless you are abusing your child, it is not my business how you choose to discipline them. (Yes, I do believe that there is a difference between a parent making a pre-meditated decision to choose spanking as a “last resort” form of discipline than a crazy out-of-control “beating at whim” parent.)
In any event, the study is available online at http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/. Judge for yourself. What do you think…does spanking children make them more aggressive later in life?