Many new parents, who themselves remember being spanked when they were kids, are on the fence about whether to physically discipline their toddlers. A 2010 study published in the journal Pediatrics found that spanking a young child increases that child’s chances of developing aggressive behavior later in childhood.
According to the study, led by Catherine A. Taylor of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans, children who were spanked more than twice a month at age 3 were 50 percent more likely to be aggressive at age 5, engaging in behaviors such as fighting and damaging objects.
In addition to increased aggression, Taylor’s previous research found that children who experience corporal punishment (including spanking) are at risk for poorer mental health, decreased moral internalization, and increased delinquency.
“There is a need to educate parents about the real risks that using corporal punishment pose for children,” says Taylor in a press release from Tulane. “Many parents just aren’t aware of the longer-term consequences.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended doing away with spanking, saying that it, and other methods of corporal punishment, are “of limited effectiveness and (have) potentially deleterious side effects.”
Instead, experts recommend giving your child a “time out,” which is most effective for children between the ages of 2 and 5. Withholding privileges, and calmly explaining and implementing natural consequences (such as taking away a toy that your child is throwing or breaking), are also methods recommended by the AAP. For more suggestions regarding discipline for toddlers and young children, visit the AAP’s website, HealthyChildren.org.