What the American Academy of
Pediatrics says about spanking
The Academy's position:
A scan of the American Academy of Pediatrics (APP) web site recommends
a number of techniques for disciplining children:
Withholding privileges, and
Time outs. 6
On the other hand:
They strongly recommend against the use of
physical punishment as a form of child discipline. Spanking might make the parent less
frustrated; it might cause the child to stop an undesirable behavior. But they
regard it as "...the least effective way to discipline." 1
They list some of the negative side effects of spanking:
It may seem to work at the moment, but it is no more effective in changing
behavior than a time-out.
Spanking increases children's aggression and anger instead of teaching
Parents may intend to stay calm but often do not, and regret their actions
Because most parents do not want to spank, they are less likely to be
Spanking makes other consequences less effective, such as those used at child
care or school. Gradually, even spanking loses its impact.
Spanking can lead to physical struggles and even escalate to the point of
harming the child.
Children who continue to be spanked are more likely to be depressed, use
alcohol, have more anger, hit their own children, approve of and hit their
spouses, and engage in crime and violence as adults.
These results make sense since spanking teaches the child that causing others
pain is justified to control them?even with those they love.
[Emphasis added by us]
In their book "Caring for Your School-Age
Child: Ages 5 to 12, " they suggest that spanking:
Emotionally harms the child.
Emotionally harms the parent.
Can cause physical harm.
Teaches the child that might makes right -- that the use of violence is a
valid way to handle conflicts.
"...interferes with the development of trust, a sense of security,
and effective communication"between parent and child. 2
In their "Tips for a Healthier New Year"
news release they suggest that parents:
"Prevent violence by
setting good examples: Hitting, slapping and spanking teaches children that
it is acceptable to hit other people to solve problems. Non-physical forms
of discipline work better in the long run. Remember that words can hurt too."
In their policy statement: "Guidance for
Effective Discipline," they define spanking as: "striking a
child with an open hand on the buttocks or extremities with the
intention of modifying behavior without causing physical injury."
Other methods of corporal punishment, including striking a child with a rod, belt, or other object
are "...unacceptable and may be
dangerous to the health and well-being of the child."
suggest that the effectiveness of spanking as a method of disciplining a
child diminishes over time. The only way to maintain its effectiveness is to
increase the level of the pain inflicted. This can rapidly escalate into abuse.
The chance of causing physical injury increases with children under 18
months of age,
Young children, under 18 months may not be able to connect the
punishment with the behavior.
"...repeated spanking may cause agitated, aggressive behavior in the
Spanking has been linked to increase aggression in children of preschool and school
Positions taken by members of the Academy:
Between 1997-OCT and 1998-MAR, the Academy conduced a mail survey to
1,629 active members, selected at random from their membership lists. They
obtained a response rate of 62% which is unusually high for this type of survey.
"The survey defined corporal punishment as 'the use of spanking as a form of
discipline. It does not include hitting, beating or other actions that might be
considered child abuse'." 5
31.4% were completely opposed to the use of corporal punishment.
53.4% generally oppose corporal punishment, but feel that an occasional
spanking under certain circumstances can be effective.
13.6% favor the limited use of corporal punishment.
1.5% were unsure.
When asked whether "Pediatricians must try to eliminate the practice of
spanking as a form of discipline:"
20% were unsure. 4
When asked about their methods of disciplining their own children:
35% used spanking as one form of discipline.
Fewer than 1% said that spanking was their most common disciplinary
Entering the search word spanking into
search engine of the AAP's web site at http://www.aap.org returned
155 results as of 2009-MAY-30.
Some of them link to interesting reports on long term studies of the
relationship between spanking and behavioral problems later in life.
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Policy Statement: Guidance for Effective Discipline," Committee on
Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health, Pediatrics, Vol 101, #4,
1988-APR-4. Online at:
http://aappolicy.aappublications.org/ This policy was reaffirmed on
"Periodic Survey of Fellows. AAP survey on corporal punishment reveals
divergent views," Division of Child Health Research, AAP, at:
"Parenting Corner Q&A: Discipline," American Academy of Pediatrics,