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Study: Kids Who Are Spanked May Become More Aggressive

| by Nicholas Roberts

Increasing evidence against the effectiveness of corporal punishment shows that children who were spanked more frequently than other children developed more aggressive behaviors, which in turn made it more likely that they would be spanked according to a 2015 study.

Roughly 60 percent of parents around the world use corporal punishment, according to figures from UNICEF. Although public approval of spanking has declined in the U.S. over the past three decades, about 70 percent still supported the practice in 2012, The Atlantic reports.

In many cases, parents continue to spank their children even when they do not think it does much good. A report from the nonprofit organization Zero to Three took a national sample of 2,000 parents of children age 5 and under and asked them about the most frequent discipline strategies they used. In the survey, 26 percent responded saying they "pop or swat" their child, 21 percent spank and 17 percent reported using an object like a spoon or a belt, according to The New York Times.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents avoid physical discipline, citing evidence that the practice does not succeed at improving children's behavior and puts them at increased risk for abuse.

In a 2015 study, Rutgers professor Michael McKenzie and his colleagues looked at the "bidrectional and transactional" effects of spanking on parents and children.  

The research suggested that some parents get caught in a "feedback loop" in which children who are spanked often respond more aggressively and become even more challenging for parents to raise, reinforcing the idea that only harsh discipline will work.  

"We want to think about these cycles and how they amplify," said McKenzie.

"We’ve sort of suggested the removal of a tool that many parents use, most parents use, without discussion of what the alternatives might be."

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