Kids who are spanked by their parents are more likely to become aggressive and antisocial, according to a new study that used an unprecedented sample size.
The research, which was a collaborative effort by teams at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, used 50 years' worth of data, with profiles of more than 160,000 children, according to U.S. News & World Report. The study was published in the Journal of Family Psychology in April.
The researchers called it "the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking" and said it rebukes any contention that spanking yields positive results.
"We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors," co-author Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin said in University of Texas' April 25 press release.
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"Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree."
While spanking and other forms of physical punishment may not be as prevalent in American households as they were decades ago, as many as 80 percent of the world's parents continue to use spanking as a child-rearing tool, according to a 2014 study by UNICEF cited by the researchers.
For the recent study, the teams looked at long-term effects of spanking as the frequently-disciplined children grew into adulthood. The more children are spanked, the researchers found, the more they were likely to exhibit antisocial behavior and develop mental problems.
At the same time, the authors said there's no evidence that spanking has any positive effects or works as a tool to discourage problem behavior.
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The study's conclusions mirrored a 2016 report by the CDC, titled "Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect." They're also consistent with an earlier study, published in 2012 by Canada's University of Manitoba, which found that kids who are spanked are more likely to become aggressive when they grow older, according to MyHealthNewsDaily.
"I think it's important for parents to understand that although physical punishment might get a child to do something in the immediate situation," the University of Manitoba's Joan Durrant said, "there are many side effects that can develop over the long term."