A new study, co-authored at the University of Manitoba, shows that disciplining a child with physical punishment doesn’t improve their behaviour.
According to Joan Durrant, a University of Manitoba expert on violence against children, over time, that type of discipline accomplishes the opposite goal.
The research intends to answer an age-old question — what comes first: the punishment, or the bad behaviour?
Published in the medical journal The Lancet on Monday, it’s a comprehensive review of 69 previous studies from nine countries over the last 20 years.
It shows that kids who are spanked show more aggression, antisocial behaviour and conduct problems as they grow, said Durrant, a professor of community health sciences.
“It does not make children’s behaviour better,” Durrant said.
“An ever-growing body of research consistently finds that physical punishment predicts a range of negative outcomes for children.
“The growing consensus that hitting children is harmful and ineffective has led 62 countries to pass laws prohibiting physical punishment of children, and another 27 countries to commit to doing so.”
Durrant said the research looked at longitudinal studies, where children’s behaviour is measured at different points in time, up to a dozen years later.
The study’s authors are calling on governments worldwide to legally ban physical punishment and to provide resources and support for parents who are struggling.
“Many parents feel deep regret about striking and hurting their children,” said Durrant.
“This issue has profound implications for the health of societies, and it needs to rise to the top of the public health and justice agendas.”
A similar study in 2016, which looked at 50 years’ worth of data and the cases of over 160,000 children, found that spanking was linked to increased defiance, anti-social behaviour, aggression, mental health issues and cognitive difficulties.
At the time of that research, B.C. family psychologist Jillian Roberts told Global News that the parent-child bond can be jeopardized when physical pain is inflicted on the child from a primary attachment figure.
“Without a strong bond, the child is more vulnerable in the face of life adversity, which makes the child more vulnerable to mental health issues down the road.”