Young children spanked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those who have never been hit, a study has found.
According to the research, children spanked up to the age of 6 were likely as teenagers to perform better at school and were more likely to carry out volunteer work and to want to go to college than their peers who had never been physically disciplined.
But children who continued to be spanked into adolescence showed clear behavioral problems.
Children’s groups and lawmakers in the UK have tried several times to have physical chastisement by parents outlawed, the Times of London reported. They claim it is a form of abuse that causes long-term harm to children and say banning it would send a clear signal that violence is unacceptable.
However, Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed there was insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to choose how they discipline their children.
“The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data,” said Gunnoe. “I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don’t use it for all your jobs.”
Research into the effects of spanking was previously hampered by the inability to find enough children who had never been spanked, given its past cultural acceptability.
But Gunnoe’s work drew on a study of 2,600 people, about a quarter of whom had never been physically chastised.