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Spanking Kids Can Make Them More Aggressive Later


Children who are spanked frequently at age 3 are more likely to be aggressive when they’re 5, even when you account for possible confounding factors and the child’s level of aggression at age 3.

The study, “Mothers’ Spanking of 3-Year-Old Children and Subsequent Risk of Children’s Aggressive Behavior,” in the May issue of Pediatrics (published online April 12), asked nearly 2,500 mothers how often they had spanked their 3-year-old child in the past month, as well as questions about their child’s level of aggression, demographic features such as child gender, and eight maternal parenting risk factors, such as parenting stress, depression, alcohol use, and the presence of other types of aggression within the family. Almost half (45.6 percent) of the mothers reported no spanking in the previous month, while 27.9 percent reported spanking one or two times, and 26.5 percent reported spanking more than twice. Mothers with more parenting risk factors were more likely to spank frequently. However, even after accounting for these potential confounding factors, frequent spanking at age 3 increased the odds of higher levels of aggression at age 5.

Despite recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics against spanking, most parents in the U.S. approve of and have used corporal punishment as a form of child discipline. Researchers state that this study suggests that even minor forms of corporal punishment increase the risk for child aggressive behavior.


The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit