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Spanking Creates Aggressive Children, Study Shows

Spanking creates aggressiveness in children of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, yet the practice continues to be used as a means of discipline with even very young children at home and in school scenarios, reports Elizabeth T. Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas in Austin.

Hitting children teaches them to be aggressive, Gershoff concluded after looking at more than 17,000 children from around the nation, in a study outlined in the July issue of the journal Child Development Perspectives.

Spanking "is bad for kids," Gershoff said in an interview. Instead, parents and teachers should reward children for positive behavior, she said. "If you give the kids who are well-behaved ... attention ... it extinguishes bad behavior pretty quickly."

Corporal punishment is still allowed in 19 states in K-12 schools, and more than some 200,000 children are paddled each year with wooden paddles at least 2 feet long, Gershoff said.

As of 2008, only three states allowed spanking in child-care settings—Idaho, Louisiana, and South Carolina—but she fears the practice is used illegally elsewhere.

Spanking "reaches its peak at age 3," Gershoff said. "I think that's the age where they're finally able to verbalize and talk back." Children of that age are also expected to know right from wrong, she said.

Still, she said, when they do something they're not supposed to, spanking is not the answer.

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