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The 'Bottom Line' on Spanking

Corporal Punishment Increases Risk of Aggression, Other Negative Behaviors; Experts Disagree

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"Mothers who combined reasoning with negative consequences had the most success in changing negative behaviors," Larzelere says. "Such usage is not only effective in reducing defiance and fighting, but children then cooperate better with the milder discipline methods, rendering further spanking less necessary."

National surveys suggest that 94% of parents acknowledge spanking their children by the age of 3 or 4, and most say they do it because it is more effective than any other means of discipline.

But Gershoff contends that any form of physical punishment sends the mixed message to a child. When loving parents model aggressive behaviors by spanking, she says, they reinforce the idea that physical aggression is the way to get what you want.

"This research also showed that spanking is associated with a poorer relationship between the parent and child," she says. "Children who were spanked felt less attached to their parents and less trusting of them, and the more they were spanked the less close was the relationship."

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