For decades it’s been a disciplinary method for frustrated parents, but more studies show smacking damages kids.
New research indicates people who were smacked as a child are more likely to become abusive in adult relationships, while other studies have shown that it causes mental health problems, impacts brain function, and can create antisocial behaviour.
While 80 per cent of parents worldwide admit to smacking, a new study from the University of Texas Medical Branch found that 68 per cent of adults surveyed who were smacked in childhood were more likely to become physically aggressive in adulthood.
The author of the study Jeff Temple said children who learnt physical punishment as a method of solving conflict may carry on the behaviour with their partners.
‘The current study adds to this knowledge by showing that being physically punished as a child is linked to perpetrating dating violence as a teen and young adult,’ he says.
He explains smacking sends unhelpful messages.
‘Parents are a child’s first look at relationships and how conflicts are handled. Corporal punishment is communicating to children that violence is an acceptable means of changing behaviour.'
The study follows findings that the more kids are smacked, the more aggressive they become.
Using five decades of research involving more than 160,000 kids, the American study found there was no evidence that smacking improved behaviour.
Rather, children who were smacked showed more signs of aggression, and lower cognitive ability and self-esteem. Elizabeth Gershoff, who was part of the team, said she hoped the findings would lead parents to revise their discipline.
‘Given our findings that smacking does no good for children and instead puts them at risk for harm, I hope that parents will reconsider using physical punishment with their children in the future and seek out positive methods,’ she says.
While more than 50 countries have banned smacking, Dr Gershoff said education was arguably more important.
‘As with parenting itself, we need to teach parents what to do instead, not just tell them not to do something,’ she said.