Does Spanking Lead to Trouble Later?
Early Spanking May Increase Chances of Problem Behavior
Cultural Context of Child Discipline Important continued...
"It's also been found that there are cultural differences
in how families spank children that are related to ones' race and
ethnicity," Slade says. "African-American and Hispanic families are
more likely to punish children physically, whereas white non-Hispanic families
more are likely to use verbal reprimands to discipline children. It may just be
that the perception of spanking and punishment differs depending on the
This difference in family context reflects real differences in
the world outside the family, says Arthur L. Whaley, PhD, DrPH, associate
director for mental health services research at the Hogg Foundation for Mental
Health, University of Texas, Austin.
Whaley says there are two kinds of spanking. One is
child-centered spanking: punishment to stop behavior dangerous to the child.
The other is adult-centered spanking: punishment because the child is annoying
"In African-American culture, traditionally when a child is
spanked it is a consequence of action on the part of the child," Whaley
tells WebMD. "The child is given an explanation almost simultaneously, so
the association is clear."
But Whaley notes that black and Hispanic families also have
other reasons to use punishment that results in rapid behavior change.
"Outside the home, a child of color may experience graver
consequences for actions that may not be as severe for non-Hispanic white
youths," he says. "There is clear evidence that when boys will be boys
-- when they get caught engaging in mischief -- the consequence for white
youths is that they are taken home to their parents and that is the end of it.
For black youth, in some cases, they are taken to the police station."
As they get older, Whaley says, children of color come to
understand their experience of family discipline in terms of its social
"Later behavioral problems are less likely when this
connection is made," he says.
Spanking: Good Child Discipline, or Bad?
Spanking in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing, Slade
concludes. But one has to be careful.
"Spanking has the power to change a child's perception of
the parent," he says. "Even in young children, spanking may change how
children walk away from the experience of discipline. A lot depends on whether
it is fair, whether it is consistently applied, and whether children are left
with a strong sense of emotional security with their parents."
Spanking out of anger, rather than out of concern for a child,
is never a good idea, Banks says.
"All parents resort to spanking on some occasions, and
often we are horrified by our own actions," he says. "The important
thing is to demonstrate you still have affection for your child. Make them
understand that their behavior was incorrect, but this does not make them bad
children. If you spank children and then ignore them, it takes away your
credibility as a loving parent. But you don't want to spank and then hug,
because that confuses them. It is a delicate situation."