Spanking Children SLOWS Cognitive Development, Increases Risk of Criminal Behavior

A groundbreaking new book compiles four decades of research to make a strong case against using harsh punishment, such as spanking, on children.  The Primordial Violence was written by Murray Straus, the co-director and founder of the Family Research Lab and a Professor of sociology at the University of New Hampshire.

The primary reason they advise against spanking is the finding that it slows cognitive development while also increasing criminal and antisocial behavior.

The Primordial Violence (Routledge, 2013) proves that when parents hit a child that they love, the act of spanking creates more consequences than simply correcting the misbehavior. The book is very useful in that it offers both evidence of the effect that spanking has on children, and also most importantly what we can do to stop it.

Longitudinal data from more than 7,000 U.S. families as well as 32 national studies are featured in the book and present extensive research into why different cultures use spanking on their children and how it affects children in society today.

“Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior. But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges.


Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and then, in adulthood, are more likely to hit a dating or marital partner.

Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school,” Straus says.

“More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90 percent agreement among them. There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behavior where the results are so consistent,” he says.

Emily Douglas, an associate professor of social work from Bridgewater State University, and Rose Anne Medeiros, a quantitative methodologist from Rice University, are two of the authors of the book who are calling for a big change in public policy.

51HMOE4jJCL._SY344_BO1204203200_They are hoping to spark a “never spank” public service announcement that warns the public about the health risks and consequences to your child. They also want to send out information with birth certificates encouraging parents to use alternatives to spanking when they run into problems with their children.

There are many chapters in the book “The Primordial Violence” that explore ways that you can understand spanking and what you can do instead to correct the issue.

Some of the highlights include:

  • The benefits of avoiding spanking, such as the development of better interpersonal skills and higher academic achievement.
  • The link between spanking and behavioral problems and crime.
  • The extent to which spanking is declining and why most parents continue to spank, despite the unusually high level of agreement between numerous studies that find harmful effects from spanking.

Straus has suggested that we spread awareness for the holidays.

“If you are looking for gift that will increase your child’s chances for a happy and healthful life, including a good job and a violence-free marriage, the evidence in this book suggests it would be promising yourself to never spank. Better yet, tell your kids about that promise.

It is likely to increase their respect and love for you, and they will also help you stick to it.”

More than 20 nations now prohibit spanking by parents. There is an emerging consensus that this is a fundamental human right for children. The United Nations is asking all nations to prohibit spanking.

Screen-Shot-2015-11-20-at-5.11.18-PMNever spanking will not only reduce the risk of delinquency and mental health problems, it also will bring to children the right to be free of physical attacks in the name of discipline, just as wives gained that human right a century and a quarter ago,” Straus says.

Straus is considered to be the foremost researcher in this field. He has been studying spanking and has collected solid samples of data from United States parents since 1969. He has received numerous awards and honors for his work including Life Fellow of the International Society for Research in Aggression. The American Association for the Advancement of Science has also awarded Straus the honor of fellow.

Straus has also been president of 3 different scientific societies, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Council on Family Relations, and the National Science Foundation. He has co-authored or authored 15 books and more than 200 research articles, including “Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment In American Families and Its Effects On Children” (2nd edition, Transaction, 2001).

You can read and download a good part of his research here:

Let us know in the comments below what you think about spanking and alternatives.

University of New Hampshire. “Spanking children slows cognitive development and increases risk of criminal behavior, expert says.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 December 2013.

Risks of harm from spanking confirmed by analysis of 5 decades of research

Written By

Kirsten is a writer who loves to practice vipassana meditation, hiking, travel, nature, consciousness, and working to make the world a better place. Her current interests involve studying and practicing flow, staying In Flow, and recognizing the natural flow of the universe. Kirsten loves to learn about the holistic healing arts. She is also interested in ancient cultures and practices such as Druidism. Kirsten is honored to be part of such an incredible movement of love and heart-centered living in this world.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

− 3 = 1