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With Spanking, Nature and Nurture Create More Aggression, Study Suggests
Date:3/17/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, March 16 (HealthDay News) -- Using spanking as a method of discipline for kids who have a genetic predisposition to aggressive behavior likely makes them even more aggressive, especially boys, new research suggests.

"There's an intricate interplay between nature and nurture," said study co-author J.C. Barnes, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Texas at Dallas School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences. "Most people know that genes matter, but genes and environment can coalesce, and we see things above and beyond what's expected."

While the study found this effect was statistically pronounced in males, Barnes said that the combination of aggressive genes and being spanked as a child likely influences girls' behaviors, too. He said it might be that the combination of these two factors didn't reach statistical significance in girls because boys tend to act out more, and so present more opportunities to have that behavior seen in a study.

The findings were published recently in the journal Aggressive Behavior.

The use of spanking as a disciplinary tool has been linked to a number of adverse outcomes in children and teens, such as aggression and criminal behavior, according to background information in the study.

Last month, researchers reported in the Canadian Medical Association's journal, CMAJ, that children who had been physically punished had higher levels of aggression against their parents, siblings, peers and spouses.

And, it may be that children who are genetically predisposed to aggression are the ones most likely to be spanked for their behavior, but the current study by Barnes and his colleagues suggests that spanking in response will just increase that type of behavior.

Data for the current study came from a nationally representative sample of children born in 2001. The entire group involved
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