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Emotional & Physical Development of Children Who Get Paddled

author image Gia Favela
Gia Favela has been writing since 2010, with articles appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM. She is a behavior therapist specializing in applied behavior analysis and works with children who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Favela has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from New Mexico State University.
Emotional & Physical Development of Children Who Get Paddled
A mother scolds her kid on the couch as she holds another one on her lap. Photo Credit JackF/iStock/Getty Images

The effects of spanking children have been debated for years, but now research is showing that spanking leads to children with lower IQs and children who are more aggressive and perceived as bullies by their peers. Many prominent doctors and child psychologist have banned together to voice their concerns about what they believe is an outdated form of corporal punishment. Studies by researchers in support of corporal punishment are limited.


Although many people believe that spanking can be used as a last resort, it is too often used as the first resort. Dr. Michael J. Marshall, author of "Why Spanking Doesn’t Work," says, "Corporal punishment is often the first response even for minor infractions. Teachers and parents need training in nonviolent ways to handle behavior problems."

A second commonly believed myth is that spanking is only used on the worst-behaved children. Marshall says this is also not true: "The most likely victims of corporal punishment are the most vulnerable, for example minorities, the smallest boys and children with disabilities."

Another myth is that using corporal punishment lets children know who is in charge. However, according to Marshall, the best way to teach children who is in charge is to use self-control.

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The Psychological Effects of Spanking

The psychological effects of spanking have been examined and various research studies have suggested that children who were spanked can actually develop lower IQs. One such study, conducted by the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland, tested a large sample of children who had been spanked by giving them IQ tests. The children, ranging in ages from 2 through 9, were tested against counterparts who were not disciplined by spanking. The results showed that the 2- through 4-year-olds who were spanked scored five points lower in their IQ tests than their counterparts.

The children in another sample, ranging in ages from 5 through 9, also showed a 2.8 point decrease in their IQ scores. The effects were statistically significant, even after accounting for parental income, parental education and cognitive stimulation. Although long-term research following spanked children and their unspanked equivalents is still in the works, current research strongly suggests a correlation between low IQs and spanking.

Spanking Creates Aggressive Behavior

Regardless of the context, spanking is a violent act which can send mixed messages to children. Some researchers believe spanking sends a message that it is OK to be physically aggressive. “Children who have been spanked are at greater risk of becoming bullies,” says Catherine A. Taylor, assistant professor of community health sciences at Tulane University. She tested a large group of more than 2,000 children to compare the aggressive behavior of spanked children versus those who were not spanked.

Controlling for factors such as maternal neglect, parental drug or alcohol abuse and psychological maltreatment of the children by caregivers, the parents were questioned on how many times they saw their child act aggressively. This included bulling other children, getting into fights and acting in a destructive manner. The results showed that parents who admitted to spanking their child reported a significant increase in aggressive acts in their children. More importantly, because this study controlled confounding variables, the results are more likely to solidify a correlation between aggression and spanking.

Spanking Causes Behavior Problems.

How many of us have heard parents complain that no matter how much they spank their child, the child still misbehaves. Researchers such as Marshall and Taylor believe spanking does not promote good behavior or reduce bad behavior. A psychologically healthy child will not act out in undesirable behaviors; if a child feels good, he will act good. Conversely, a child who feels bad inside is more likely to act out in negative ways.


Spanking is not an adequate form of discipline. Children who have been spanked are more likely to suffer emotionally, they are more likely to have lower IQs and are more likely to act out aggressively. There are many of other methods that parents can use to discipline a child. Marshall says, "If positive parenting techniques of positive reinforcement, non-reinforcement, modeling and behavior contracts are emphasized in behavior control, instead of punitive techniques like spanking, it will create the best behaving children of all."

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