Evidence against physically punishing kids is clear, researchers say

The conclusion of a narrative review found that physical punishment of children does not prevent child behavior problems or promote positive outcomes. Instead, it predicts an increase in behavior problems over time. The Lancet published the study today by an international team of scientists, including one from The University of Texas at Austin.Many caregivers use physical punishment to deal with children's misbehavior. In fact, 63% of children aged 2 to 4 around the globe - roughly 250 million children – are subject to such punishments.Sixty-two countries have already banned this practice, which is becoming more and more seen as a form violence.The team examined studies that involved physical punishment, such as spanking, and excluded any behavior that could be considered child physical abuse. Researchers found plenty of evidence supporting a United Nations recommendation that countries stop using any form of physical punishment on children.Elizabeth Gershoff (Ammy Johnson McLaughlin Centennial Prof in Human Development at The University of Texas at Austin and senior writer of the paper) stated that there is no evidence that physical punishment is beneficial for children. "All evidence suggests that physical punishment is detrimental to children's well-being and development."The review included 69 studies, eight of which came from other countries. Researchers found that physical punishment did not have any positive effects on children, and that it increased the likelihood that children would be subject to violence or neglect. According to the paper, physical punishment can lead to behavior problems and other negative outcomes, regardless of gender, race or ethnicity of the child. This is true regardless of how the caregivers parent the child. Researchers also discovered that children suffered more severe consequences when physical punishment was used.Gershoff stated that parents hit their children to improve their behavior. "Unfortunately, for parents who hit their children, our research revealed that physical punishment does not improve the behavior of children and in fact makes it worse."It is legal for parents in the United States to use physical punishment. Schools can also use physical punishment against their children in 19 states. This paper is intended to be a resource for policymakers as well as people who work with families (e.g., mental and medical health providers)Anja Heilmann (associate professor at University College London) said that this is a health issue. "Considering the overwhelming evidence that physical punishment can cause harm to children, policymakers must take responsibility for protecting children and legislating to end physical punishment in any setting.Gershoff had previously published a 2016 landmark meta-analysis that analyzed dozens of studies. It found that physical punishment was strongly associated with negative outcomes and was not associated any positive outcomes for children. John B., the former Secretary of Education, cited Gershoff's work. In a 2016 federal letter, King Jr. urged states to stop using physical punishment in schools. Gershoff was also instrumental in forming policy statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Psychological Association (APA), which use research on the negative effects of physical punishment to recommend that caregivers stop using it.###Anita Mehay and Richard G. Watt, Heilmann and Yvonne Kelly of University College London, (UK); Joan E. Durrant of University of Manitoba (Canada); Jillian van Turnhout (ex-Senator, Irish Parliament) also contributed to this research. The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and UK Economic and Social Research Council funded the research.