Spanking at Age 5 Simply Worsens Behavior Down the Line: Study

Spanking at Age 5 Simply Worsens Behavior Down the Line: Study

Alternatives to spanking could get better results in children’s behavior, as time passes.

If you are fed up with your child’s behavior at age 5, professionals are recommending you take a breather. Parenting can be hard. Spanking your child at this age, however, could be making things worse.

A new study done by psychologists at the University of Texas at Austin shows that, even when kids drive you up the walls and around the block when they make bad choices, corporal punishment doesn’t pay off.

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Children who are spanked at age 5 actually show increased behavior problems by the time they reach 6 and 8 years old. Compared with children who aren’t spanked, they are found by both parents and teachers to have more trouble controlling their own reactions.

Of course, it is difficult to measure the effects of spanking. Researchers can’t very well tell one group of parents to get at it, and another to lay off and see what happens in time.

Family-Related Characteristics


So, what was done? To get their data in this study, scientists matched children who had been spanked with those who hadn’t according to 38 child- and family-related characteristics.

These included the child’s age, gender, overall health, and behavior problems at age 5; the parent’s education, age, and marital status; the family socioeconomic status and household size; and factors related to parenting quality and conflict in the home.

The kids’ teachers were then asked to evaluate the children’s behavior when they were 5, 6 and 8 years old. They reported the frequency with which the children “argued, fought, got angry, acted impulsively, and disturbed ongoing activities.”

According to the study authors, the results were clear. Kids who were spanked at 5 showed a greater increase in bad behavior over time, compared with those who were never hit.

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“The fact that knowing whether a child had ever been spanked was enough to predict their levels of behavior problems years later was a bit surprising,” says Gershoff. “It suggests that spanking at any frequency is potentially harmful to children.”

Ted Cruz


So, are people heeding the advice?

The findings are in line with other studies out there. It is true though that, often times, the general public- and those in the public eye, in the case of Ted Cruz back in the presidential race of 2016-don’t necessarily agree.

Cruz openly admitted to spanking his daughter. And evidence shows that many others feel that spanking their kids is a private matter, and not something clinicians, teachers, doctors or anyone else should weigh in on.

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This graph in the Washington Post shows that most Americans, at least not too long ago, felt that spanking was a necessary part of disciplining a child.

What’s your take? It is a necessary evil, or simply a bad response on the part of parents? Comments welcome.

Photo credits: Bundit Yuwannasiri/

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