Spanking Doesn't Work, Study Indicates

Kim LaCapria

One of the hotter debates in the world of parenting is spanking- and even those of us of the less-likely-to-spank generation kind of grudgingly suggest that we stayed in line in Catholic school or at home because we didn't want to get one, the implication being kids today are mouthier because they are not spanked enough. (Personally, I blame those little brats on the Disney shows.)

But a very long-term study has indicated that spanking isn't a great teaching tool for discipline, something anti-spanking advocates have been saying for a long time. What researchers found is that while it may halt the undesirable behaviors in the short-term, spanking can increase a child's aggression, leading to more difficulties in behavior down the road.

Now, before you say that that's because the researchers probably weren't spanked enough as kids, take a look at what they found and the sheer scope of the study. As you can imagine, spanking presents a bit of a clinical challenge- you can't very well take a group of kids and beat the tar out of them on a daily or weekly basis in the name of research, for instance, so the researchers had to be careful in both finding families to research as well as collect data on this most sensitive of parenting issues.

TIME spoke to Joan Durrant, lead author of a spanking study published in today's Canadian Medical Association Journal. Durrant had this to say about the efficacy of spanking:

“We find children who are physically punished get more aggressive over time and those who are not physically punished get less aggressive over time... If someone were to hit us to change our behavior, it might harm our relationship with that person. We might feel resentful. It’s no different for children. It’s not a constructive thing to do.”