Many parents nowadays believe spanking their children for wrongdoings is OK because they were spanked when they were little, and they turned out okay. However, new research is looking into how physical discipline can pose serious risks to children, and the lasting effects are not beneficial to the child in the long run.

Physical punishment can potentially lead to aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury and mental health problems. Meanwhile, two-thirds of Americans still approve of parents spanking their kids. If spanking or use of physical aggression by a parent doesn’t work the first time, they think that they just didn’t make it severe enough, which is why it can become so dangerous.

Spanking may be a quick fix, but the science on child discipline shows that immediate compliance declines until it eventually disappears as the child learns to expect what is coming and becomes unafraid. Some children may also experience lower levels of moral internalization, meaning that they may not understand that something was morally wrong, but they know right from wrong from whether or not they were hit for it.

The question should be not only what physical discipline does to children, but what it does to parents as well. Parents who spank their children often don’t know the harmful effects to their children or alternative methods. One article even argues that spanking is a result of a parent’s need for more balance in their own lives. Discipline like this can also harden the parent emotionally toward the child, making the parent-child relationship strained. 

In this day and age, methods like spanking should already be outdated. Yet the cycle continues because parents experienced it when they were young, so ultimately they are implementing the same bad habits on their children directly and indirectly. Leading parents to “If physical discipline doesn’t work, then what does?”

A program at Yale, for example, teaches parents to use positive reinforcement, reward children for good behavior, and talk with their children about how to appropriately resolve conflicts. Alternative methods can bypass problems like children feeling afraid of their parents and spanking their children in the future so the cycle will finally end.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like punishing children physically is going to end as quickly as it should. Parents aren’t the only offenders of this method; corporal punishment in places like schools is still legal in 19 states because of the 1977 Supreme Court case Ingraham v. Wright. If our schools are still allowed to practice this non-effective method, then it will take that much longer for it to stop altogether. But the research doesn’t lie, and hopefully one day parents will finally realize that what they are doing is not the best option for their children.

Charlotte Caldwell is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Charlotte? Email her at

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