The upshot of a new study on spanking children: Just don't do it. "Parents hit their children because they think doing so will improve their behavior," explains senior author Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin to CNN. "Unfortunately for parents who hit, our research found clear and compelling evidence that physical punishment does not improve children's behavior and instead makes it worse." An international group of scientists reviewed 61 studies on the subject from the US and other eight from the following countries: Canada, China, Colombia, Greece, Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, and the UK. The review, published Monday in Lancet, found children who were spanked developed more problematic behaviors, including "increased aggression, increased antisocial behavior, and increased disruptive behavior in school."
That result wasn't impacted by a child's gender or race, nor was it lessened in the case of parents who combined spanking with an "overall warm and positive parenting style," reports CNN. A press release notes that the review suggested as the spanking frequency increased, so too did the "magnitude of negative outcomes for children." Parents can legally spank their kids in all 50 states, and schools in 19 states can legally use physical punishment as well. Per the press release, the paper is meant to be a resource for policymakers. "This is a public health issue," says lead author Anja Heilmann with University College London. "Given the strength of the evidence ... policymakers have a responsibility to protect children and legislate to end the use of physical punishment in all settings." (The American Academy of Pediatrics weighed in on the subject in 2018.)