Spanking Your Child May Have Serious Negative Effects on Their Personality & Lowers Their IQ

Just as how you were raised significantly impacted the type of human being you ended up becoming, so too do the words and actions you direct toward your children influence the kind of people they eventually turn into. Research suggests that any form of punishment definitely leaves lasting impressions; Dr. Murray Straus spent his life studying the negative effects of corporal punishment, and he discovered that the negative impact on a child’s psyche in particular lasted well into adulthood and beyond. Straus’s findings should certainly be taken seriously: he wrote hundreds of papers and fifteen books, one of which is titled Behind Closed Doors and Beating the Devil Out of Them. What’s more, he’s an internationally acclaimed sociologist who founded the field of family violence research, he was the co-director of the Family Research Laboratory, and he was a professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire.


Spanking as it relates to IQ.

The University of New Hampshire enabled Straus and Mallie Paschall (senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation) to demonstrate to the International Conference on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma in 2009 that, “All parents want smart children. This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen. The results of this research have major implications for the well being of children across the globe.”

They researched samples of 806 children of ages two to four and 704 children of ages five to nine, and then they re-tested all these children four years later. It turned out that the IQs of the children who weren’t spanked were five points higher on average when compared to the IQs of the children who were spanked: “How often parents spanked made a difference. The more spanking the, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference.”

National stats.

They also collected data pertaining to corporal punishment in 32 nations among 17,404 university students; the ones who were spanked as children were discovered to have lower average IQs, and the nations in which spanking occurred most were found to have the lowest national IQ averages. More specifically, it was found that Corporal punishment is quite stressful, and can be chronically stressful if it occurs three or more times per week. This punishment tends to result in an increase in post-­traumatic stress symptoms, such as fearfulness and edginess. What’s more, it was highlighted that better economic development came as a result of less corporal punishment and higher IQs.


Straus argues that, “The worldwide trend away from corporal punishment is most clearly reflected in the 24 nations that legally banned corporal punishment by 2009. Both the European Union and the United Nations have called on all member nations to prohibit corporal punishment by parents. Some of the 24 nations that prohibit corporal punishment by parents have made vigorous efforts to inform the public and assist parents in managing their children. In others little has been done to implement the prohibition. . . . Nevertheless, there is evidence that attitudes favoring corporal punishment and actual use of corporal punishment have been declining even in nations that have done little to implement the law and in nations which have not prohibited corporal punishment.”

Impact on personality.

Research in the Journal of Family Psychology from the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan reveals that children who got spanked were more likely to “defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties.” Furthermore, “it is the most complete analysis to date of the outcomes associated with spanking, and more specific to the effects of spanking alone than previous papers, which included other types of physical punishment in their analyses.” Remarkably, this research involves a meta-analysis of 50 years of studies with more than 160,000 children. As per Elizabeth Gershoff (associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas at Austin), “spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”


Co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor (associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work) points out that, “The upshot of the study is that spanking increases the likelihood of a wide variety of undesired outcomes for children. Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do.” Additionally, Gershoff says that, “research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree[:] no clear evidence of positive effects from spanking and ample evidence that it poses a risk of harm to children’s behavior and development.”

Unfair circumstances.

Tamagawa University and the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Japan reveal in the journal Nature Human Behavior that there are serious implications for people who suffer from depression related to unfair circumstances. Medical XPress explains that, “volunteers were asked to play a video game in which rewards were offered—some of the volunteers were given more than half of the rewards, some were given less than half, and a third group got the same as other players. As the volunteers played the game, the researchers watched blood flow in the brain courtesy of an MRI machine. The researchers focused on the amygdala and hippocampus because they have been associated with depression symptoms in people. They report that the way those brain regions responded when players felt the game was unfair toward them offered a reliable means for predicting depression levels in those people a year later—and that was regardless of whether the volunteer had scored as a pro-social person versus an individualist on a test before playing the video game. They also found that among the brains of volunteers who received more than their share, they could only predict depressive levels in pro-social people.”

Moreover, Dr. Murray Straus argues that, “It is time for psychologists to recognize the need to help parents end the use of corporal punishment and incorporate that objective into their teaching and clinical practice. It also is time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no ­spanking legislation.”

Parenting gently. 


Rebecca English has written a piece in The Conversation containing advice for parents regarding alternative methods of discipline. She advises parents to encourage a partnership with their kids:

#1: Begin from a place of connection and genuinely believe that all behaviour grows from how much a child connects with their caregiver.

#2: Provide choices as opposed to commands.

#3: Use a playful approach rather than an overly serious method.

#4: Enable feelings to run their course.

#5: Describe a child’s behaviour instead of describing the child themselves, or criticize a child’s behaviour instead of criticizing the child themselves.

#6: Negotiate limits when possible.

#7: Treat children as family partners rather than family subordinates.

#8: Don’t force affection, or behaviour such as always saying please and thank you.

#9: Trust your children when you’re unsure if they’re being truthful or not.

#10: Take parental time-outs as opposed to assigning child time-outs.



*This content was inspired by an amazing article that can be found here.

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