Statement Regarding Hitting Children

Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children

Div. 7 and Div. 37 of the American Psychological Association

This statement represents the views of the Div. 7 and Div. 37 Task Force on Physical Punishment of Children as well as of Div. 7 and Div. 37 of APA and does not represent the official position of APA or any other division of the association.

One of the most controversial child-rearing issues is whether spanking is beneficial for children’s development. Hundreds of research studies have clearly and consistently found that spanking does not make children better behaved and in fact has the opposite effect of increasing their aggressive and problem behaviors over time. Some adults reflect on their child rearing and see spanking as a positive influence. By and large, however, spanking has been associated with a range of negative side effects, including increased mental health problems such as depression. Research has also shown that the more often parents spank, the greater their risk for physically abusing their children.

Parents hit their children for many reasons, but one of the most common reasons reported is that they were hit by their own parents when they were children. However, many adults who themselves were spanked have learned to end this cycle of hitting and have raised well-behaved children without spanking them. Regardless of one's childhood, race, culture or religion, good parenting does not require hitting a child.

Children need love, support and firm guidance. Parents need to be encouraged to use positive parenting approaches. Showing warmth, having open communication, employing limit-setting and rewarding positive behavior are some of the parenting behaviors necessary for children to thrive. Information about positive parenting and positive discipline can be found on multiple websites (e.g., actagainstviolence.apa.org; CDC.gov/parents; endhittingusa.org; stophitting.com).

References

Durrant, J.E., & Ensom, R. (2012). Physical punishment of children: Lessons from 20 years of research. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184, 1373-1376

Gershoff, E.T. (2013). Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child Development Perspectives, 7, 133-137. DOI: 10.1111/cdep.12038

Gershoff, E.T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539-579. PMID: 12081081