"When parents of aggressive children are instructed in how to reduce their use of spanking, and they do indeed reduce it, the level of their children's aggression declines," Ensom said. "And when children who all have the same level of aggression when the study begins are followed over a period of years, those who are spanked tend to get more aggressive over time, while those who are not spanked tend to get less aggressive."
The authors urged physicians to help parents learn nonviolent, effective approaches to discipline, but one child psychologist in the United States said the paper fell short in providing examples of such approaches.
"They did a nice job of summarizing all of the research, and it's always good to reinforce the message, especially to newer physicians," said Mary Alvord, a child clinical psychologist in private practice in Rockville and Silver Spring, Md. "I just wish they had taken the next step and given the doctors more tools to show parents what to do, rather than focusing so much on what they shouldn't do."
"Parents often feel helpless in these situations, and they want their child to get the message that what they did is wrong," Alvord said. "So I don't get preachy with parents, but I try to explain that there are so many more effective things that parents can do, like timeouts."
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests effective ways to discipline children.
SOURCES: Joan Durrant, Ph.D., professor, Department of Fami
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