Should parents spank?

A new study shows that spanking kids makes them more aggressive.

Published November 21, 2005 8:27PM (EST)

Note to all the moms and dads out there: Next time you're ready to give your kid a smack on the tush, take a timeout instead. While child-rearing experts have long debated the effects of spanking, a new study conducted by the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University finds evidence that children who experience physical discipline at the hands of their parents are more hostile and fretful than their peers.

In the course of the survey, researchers spoke with 336 mothers and children from China, Italy, India, the Philippines, Kenya and Thailand. Jennifer Lansford, the research scientist who led the study, tells Reuters Health that "across the six countries studied, children who were physically disciplined more frequently were more aggressive and anxious than were children who were physically disciplined less frequently."

Of course, Lansford also concedes that it's hard to tell which problem comes first: Does spanking itself change kids, causing them to assume negative behaviors? Or is it that kids who are fundamentally more aggressive and anxious are simply more likely to provoke their parents' ire? In the end, says Lansford, "on the basis of other work conducted in the United States, the answer is probably some of each."

By Sarah Karnasiewicz

Sarah Karnasiewicz is a freelance writer and photographer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. Until recently, she was senior editor at Saveur magazine; prior to that she was deputy Life editor at Salon. She has contributed to the New York Times, the New York Observer and Rolling Stone, among other publications. For more of her work, visit and Signs and Wonders.

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