TORONTO – Academics and parents alike have long known that spanking doesn’t work but new research is providing insight into just how harmful the long-term effects can be.
Murray Straus, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire found during research for a book those who were spanked as children were more likely to engage in criminal behavior later in life.
They were also more likely to have lower IQs because fear of corporal punishment is a chronic stressor that impairs learning, according to Straus.
“There is a dose response, so that the more spanking one receives, the higher the risk is,” says Emily Douglas, a sociologist and co-author of the research.
“Even children who got spanked when they were very young – like when they were one or two years old – experienced an increased risk.”
READ MORE: Why spanking your kids doesn’t work
Douglas says parents with anecdotal stories of how spanking kept them and their kids in line don’t understand how increased probabilities work.
“Those are anecdotal incidences; it doesn’t speak about on average across a population. I mean you can say the same thing that I smoked and I didn’t get cancer so it would be fine for anybody else to do that,” Douglas said.
Currently spanking your children “in a reasonable manner” for the purpose of correction is legal in Canada because of an exemption in the criminal code.
Michele Peterson-Badali, a psychologist and professor at the University of Toronto, was part of a team that fought unsuccessfully all the way to the Supreme Court to have that exemption removed.
“We were trying to remove that because it makes it so hard for child welfare agencies to document physical abuse in children, if we’re saying it’s okay to spank,” says Peterson-Badali
READ MORE: When does discipline become child abuse?
Research reveals that spanking only sometimes works in the short term but is associated with whole host of negative, long-term outcomes.
Spanking also increases the likelihood the child will hit another child or their partner as an adult.