Spare the Rod for Healthy Development

Physical punishment likely harms kids development compared to other discipline approaches

(RxWiki News) A review of twenty years worth of research reveals that physically punishing kids probably does more harm than good and appears to increase kids' aggression.

Among the possible outcomes researchers found in looking at two decades of literature on physical punishment were higher levels of antisocial behavior and increased aggressiveness toward family members, peers and even future partners.

"Ask your pediatrician about effective ways to discipline your child."

Dr. Joan Durrant, of the Department of Family Social Sciences at the University of Manitoba and Ron Ensom, Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario, led the study.

"Virtually without exception, these studies found that physical punishment was associated with higher levels of aggression against parents, siblings, peers and spouses," Durrant and her colleagues wrote.

One trial the researchers looked at involved 500 families whose parents were trained to decrease the physical punishment they used to address behavioral issues in their children.

In the trial, difficult behaviors of the kids decreased as the physical punishment declined.

The researchers also found increased associations between physical punishment and mental health issues that included depression, anxiety and substance abuse.

Evidence in brain imaging studies included in their research showed that physical punishment may impact kids' performance of on IQ tests and increase their likelihood of becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol.

The authors suggest that family doctors can and should advise parents to use non-physical and evidence-based methods to discipline their children. They can also provide public health information and resources such as parenting programs to parents.

The article appears in the current issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. No information was available regarding the study's funding or possible conflicts of interests of the authors.

Review Date: 
February 5, 2012