Child corporal punishment: Spanking
Correlations between childhood
spanking and adult sexual behavior
2008: University of New Hampshire:
studies linking spanking & sex:
Murray Straus, 81, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the
University of New Hampshire analyzed four studies that attempted to
correlate corporal punishment during childhood with sexual problems during teen
years and adulthood.
He presented his findings at the American Psychological
Association?s "Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships: Connecting
Agendas and Forging New Directions" held on 2008-FEB-28 & 29.
He found evidence that linked corporal punishment (e.g. spanking, slapping,
hitting, throwing objects at children) with a number of sexual behaviors during
||Physically or verbally coercing another person to have sex.
||Engaging in risky sexual behavior, with potentially serious consequences
in the transmission of a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
||Engaging in masochistic sex, including becoming sexually aroused by
In all four studies, researchers found that those who had experienced
corporal punishment had an increased probability of engaging in at least one of
"These results, together with the results of more than 100 other studies,
suggest that spanking is one of the roots of relationship violence and mental
health problems. Because there is 93 percent agreement between [sic] studies that
investigated harmful side effects of spanking, and because over 90 percent of
U.S. parents spank toddlers, the potential benefits for prevention of sexual
and relationship violence is large."
"Furthermore, because other research
shows spanking is not more effective than other discipline methods, there is
no need to expose children to the harmful effects of spanking. We can help
prevent mental health problems and relationship violence from happening by a
national health policy recommending never spanking." 3
The Associated Press reports:
"Straus said he would like more pediatricians and child-rearing experts to
warn against spanking. He'd also like lawmakers to take a stand by dedicating
state money to teaching parents about the dangers of corporal punishment."
" 'The best-kept secret in child psychology is that children who were never
spanked are among the best behaved,' Straus said." 2
Correlation of childhood spanking & adult sexual coercion:
Elizabeth Gershoff, assistant professor of social work at the University of
Michigan-Ann Arbor, has reviewed spanking studies extending over eight decades.
She commented that children may develop problems depending on how they process
the spankings that they have received. She said:
"They may internalize that to mean that in loving relationships sometimes
there's pain or physical aggression. [Another possible lesson is that] whoever
is stronger and has more power can overpower the other person and use physical
aggression to control the other person's behavior." 1
Correlation of childhood spanking with risky sex during adulthood:
In one of the four studies examined, Straus surveyed 14,252 students at 68
universities in 32 countries between 2001 and 2006. The results were:
||12.5% of the students who had never been hit by parents were likely to insist that
their sexual partner have unprotected sex.
25% of the students who had received the most corporal punishment were
likely to insist on unprotected sex. 1
Correlation of childhood spanking with masochism during adulthood:
Straus surveyed 207 students at three colleges and asked them whether they had
ever been sexually aroused during masochistic sex. 2
He found that:
||40% percent of students who had never been spanked were interested in
75% of students who had been spanked a lot by their parents were sexually
aroused by masochistic sex. 3
"The core idea of this study is that being spanked by loving parents
confuses love with violence, which increases the probability that violence
will be part of making love. ...
What is new about this study is a scientific test of the idea that being
spanked as a child inclines people [as adults] to want to be spanked when having sex, and
that this is especially likely to be true when there is a combination of lots
of spanking and lots of love." 3
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
Sharon Jayson, "Study: Spanking may lead to sexual problems later," USA
Today, 2008-FEB-28, at:
"Study: Spanking children affects their sex lives as adults," Associated
Press, 2008-FEB-29, at:
"Spanking Kids Increases Risk of Sexual Problems as Adults," Science Blog,
Copyright © 2004 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on
Latest update and review: 2009-MAY-30
Author: B.A. Robinson