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Poorer language skills and behavior found at age 9 for children physically punished years earlier

Posted October 23, 2013

Spanking can affect a child’s behavior and learning ability for years, with the impact of physical discipline reverberating even as kids near adolescence, a new study suggests.

Nine-year-olds who were spanked at least twice a week by their mother at age 3 or 5 are much more likely to break rules and act aggressively than children who weren’t spanked, according to the study, which was published online Oct. 21 in the journal Pediatrics.

Those children also were more likely to score lower on vocabulary and language-comprehension tests if their fathers spanked them twice weekly or more at age 5.

“We found there were impacts not just on the behavioral development that folks normally look at, but also on markers of cognitive development, like the verbal capacity of the child,” said co-author Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City. “These effects are long-lasting. They aren’t just short-term problems that wash out over time. And the effects were stronger for those who were spanked more than twice a week.”

MacKenzie described the findings as “one additional brick” to lay on the growing pile of research that links spanking to aggression and behavior problems.

A study published in March found that spanking kids who have a genetic predisposition to aggressive behavior makes them more aggressive. Canadian researchers in July released a study that found that up to 7 percent of a range of adult mental-health disorders were associated with physical punishment during childhood.

“People keep finding it again and again,” MacKenzie said. “Spanking may be the largest contributing factor to a child’s acting out.”

Thirty-two countries prohibit physical punishment of children by parents or caregivers, but the practice is allowed in the United States and Canada. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommends against the use of physical punishment as a form of child discipline.

Read more at: MedlinePlus

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