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Early Spankings Make for Aggressive Toddlers, Study Shows
Date:9/15/2009

Kids spanked at age 1 also had worse performance on cognitive tests at age 3

TUESDAY, Sept. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Children who are spanked as 1-year-olds are more likely to behave aggressively and perform worse on cognitive tests as toddlers than children who are spared the punishment, new research shows.

Though the negative effects of spanking were "modest," the study adds to a growing body of literature that's finding spanking isn't good for children.

"Age 1 is a key time for establishing the quality of the parenting and the relationship between parent and the child," said study author Lisa J. Berlin, a research scientist at the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University. "Spanking at age 1 reflects a negative dynamic, and increases children's aggression at age 2."

The study is published in the September/October issue of Child Development.

Berlin and her colleagues looked at data on 2,500 white, Mexican American and black children from low-income families. The data included parents' reports about their children's behavior, their use of spanking, as well as home visits by trained observers to document parent-child interactions at ages 1, 2 and 3.

About one-third of mothers of 1-year-olds reported they or someone in their household had spanked their child in the last week, while about half of the mothers of 2- and 3-year-olds reported that their child had been spanked.

The average number of spankings for 1-year-olds was 2.6 per week, while the average for 2-year-olds was nearly three.

The study found that children who were spanked at age 1 had more aggressive behaviors at age 2 and performed worse on measures of thinking abilities at age 3.

Being spanked at age 2, however, did not predict more aggressive behaviors at age 3, possibly because the spanking had begun at age 1 and by age 2 the kids were already more aggressive, Berlin said.


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