If you’re one of the many Canadian parents on the fence about the issue of corporal punishment, a new study published in the journal Pediatrics may sway your opinion on this emotionally charged topic.
According to researchers at Tulane University, along with teams at Wayne State University and the State University of New York, children who are spanked when they are three years old are more likely to display aggressive behaviour by the time they are five. Researchers followed nearly 2,500 children for seven years, across 20 large American cities. Of parents who participated in the study, more than half reported spanking their children.
This isn’t the first study to link corporal punishment with difficulties later in life. However, this study is the first to take into account other possible explanations for aggressive behaviour, such as violence between parents and maternal depression, drug abuse and neglect. But when it comes to explaining the causes of a child’s aggressive behaviour, spanking is still the biggest factor.
‘I wanted to control for those other factors,’ lead researcher Dr. Catherine Taylor told the Toronto Star. ‘What I found was frequent spanking is strictly linked with how aggressive a child would become. It is the strongest risk factor.’
While spanking is legal in Canada, elsewhere in the world, it is not. But the legality of spanking aside, there is a larger, more ethical question to contend with: How can you teach your child that hitting and acting out is wrong, if you don’t lead by example?
If you read popular parenting blogs and forums, you’ll notice that there are advocates on both sides of this debate’some parents are pro-spanking, while others would never even consider it. With new evidence linking spanking to aggression later in life, we have to ask: How do you feel about spanking? Are other forms of discipline more effective?