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Are Spanked Children More Aggressive?

By Dr. Kristie

Does spanking increase the risk of aggression in children? A new study in the journal Pediatrics looked at this issue and reached the conclusion that spanking children has drawbacks – and may increase the risk of violent and aggressive behavior during childhood.


Are Spanked Children More Aggressive?

Spanking children is a controversial topic. Despite recommendations by most pediatric societies that spanking should be avoided, three out of four parents still think it’s okay to spank a child. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly encourages parents to avoid using any type of corporal punishment to discipline children and, instead, encourages non-physical alternatives such as withholding privileges and rewarding good behavior.


In this study, researchers found that children who received frequent spankings at age three had a higher risk of aggression and aggressive behavior at age five than children who were disciplined using non-violent means. More specifically, children who were spanked more than twice a month had a fifty percent greater risk of aggressive behavior such as bullying other kids, pushing, shoving, being destructive, and engaging in cruel behavior.


Spanking and Childhood Aggressive Behavior

Why do spanked children have a higher risk of aggression later in childhood? Spanking children teaches them it’s okay to use violence. If mom and dad do it, why shouldn’t I? Children enjoy imitating their parents and a spanked child learn that when someone doesn’t do what you want, it’s okay to respond in a physical manner. Some studies also show that spanked children are more prone to anxiety during childhood and later in life – and this increases their risk of aggressive behavior – or leads to the other extreme of being fearful around other kids and adults.


Not only does spanking increase the risk of aggression in children, but it’s easy for a mom and dad who’s frustrated to cross the line and be abusive. Where do you draw the line? How much spanking is enough and when does it become too much? The best solution is to use non-violent methods to discipline a child – to avoid having a child mimic your behavior.


Spanked Children and the Risk of Childhood Aggressive Behavior

Spanking children sends a child the message that violence is okay and makes it more likely they’ll be aggressive later on. It’s better to spare the rod.



Medscape.com website. “Spanking Toddlers Makes for More Aggressive 5-Year-Olds”.

Physorg.com website. “Spanking children can Lead to Aggressive Behavior”.

A new study shows that spanked children may be at higher risk of aggression and violent behavior. Is spanking children a practice that should be stopped?