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Health & Parenting

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Kids Who Get Spanked May Have Lower IQs

Studies Show Link Between Getting Spanked and Poorer Scores on Intelligence Tests

Spanking and IQ continued...

"Many things influence a child's IQ," he says. "This is just one of them, but it is one that parents can do something about."

In the second study, Straus analyzed data from more than 17,000 university students in 32 countries who were polled about their parents' use of corporal punishment. The answers were then compared to national average IQ scores.

Straus says IQ scores were lower in countries in which spanking was more prevalent, with the strongest association seen when children were spanked from childhood through their teens.

Critics Say Evidence Is Weak

While numerous studies have linked corporal punishment to aggressive behavior, far fewer have examined the impact of spanking on intelligence.

But earlier this month, Duke University research scientist Lisa J. Berlin, PhD, and colleagues also linked early spanking to reduced intelligence in one of the most rigorously designed studies to ever address the issue.

The researchers questioned 2,500 racially diverse, low-income moms about their use of spanking as a discipline tool for their toddlers.

They found that children who were spanked at age 1 were more aggressive than those who weren't by age 2 and they scored lower on tests to assess mental development at age 3.

"The research as a whole really paints a picture of the detrimental long-term effects of physical punishment," Berlin tells WebMD. "The message to parents is find other ways to discipline your children."

A 2002 analysis of 88 spanking studies spanning six decades linked spanking to 10 negative behaviors including aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health issues.

More than 90% of the studies found spanking to be detrimental, says developmental psychologist Elizabeth Gershoff, PhD, who conducted the analysis.

"Parents spank to decrease bad behavior in the short and long term and to promote positive behavior," she tells WebMD. "What the research tells us is that spanking doesn't seem to be doing either of these things."

But critics say that research is highly suspect because it has largely been conducted by investigators like Straus, Berlin, and Gershoff who strongly oppose the practice.

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