Spanking: Helpful or Harmful?

Chelsea Barbosa, LPC on Mar 21, 2023 in Relationship and Family

Spanking children as a form of discipline is still prevalent in many cultures worldwide. Spanking is still considered an effective way of disciplining children. But research has shown that corporal punishment causes more harm than good. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, physical punishment — including spanking, hitting, and other means of causing pain — can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury, and mental health problems for children (Smith, nd).

The same study also shows that spanking does not improve child behavior or promote positive long-term outcomes. Instead, it causes children to become more defiant, aggressive, and less cooperative with their parents. Children who are spanked are also more likely to have lower self-esteem and experience academic difficulties.

Studies also show that children who are spanked exhibit heightened cortisol and adrenaline levels (Cuartas, Weissman, Sheridan, Lengua & McLaughlin, 2021). Cortisol is a hormone released in response to stress, and studies have found that physical punishment can increase these levels in children. Long-term exposure to high levels of cortisol may have negative effects on children's physical and mental health. It's important to note that the use of physical punishment as a form of discipline has been widely debated, and many experts advocate for positive and non-violent forms of discipline instead.

Moreover, spanking can also affect the parent-child relationship, weakening the bond between them and leading to trust issues or poor attachment. Parents who use physical punishment may also be more prone to using other forms of aggression towards their children, such as emotional abuse, which can further harm the child’s mental health.

Taking everything into account, spanking is not an effective form of discipline and can cause negative long-term effects on a child's development. There are many alternative discipline strategies such as setting clear boundaries, active listening, and positive reinforcement that can help children grow into well-adjusted adults. As parents and caregivers, we must seek healthier ways to discipline our children and create a safe and nurturing environment for them to thrive. Because they deserve that.


Cuartas J, Weissman DG, Sheridan MA, Lengua L, McLaughlin KA. Corporal Punishment and Elevated Neural Response to Threat in Children. Child Dev. 2021 May;92(3):821-832. doi: 10.1111/cdev.13565. Epub 2021 Apr 9. PMID: 33835477; PMCID: PMC8237681.

Smith, B. (n.d.). The case against spanking. Https://Www.Apa.Org.

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