Understanding the impact of parenting style and temperament on children is challenging and riddled with controversy. There is a myriad of variables, none of which can easily (or ethically) be controlled. Also, the development of a child plays out over decades.
According to the American Psychological Association, “Many studies have shown that physical punishment – including spanking, hitting, and other means of causing pain – can lead to increased aggression, antisocial behavior, physical injury, and mental health problems for children.”
However, although attitudes have changed over the years, two thirds of the population of the United States still approve of parents spanking their children.
A leading researcher into physical punishment at the University of Texas at Austin – told the American Psychological Association, “I can just about count on one hand the studies that have found anything positive about physical punishment and hundreds that have been negative.”
Still, the exact interaction between parental methods and child outcomes continues to be a tough area to study, and there are many specific questions still to be answered.
For instance, previous studies have tended to be relatively short: generally they have lasted just 1 year, and they have rarely looked at families in, or near, poverty.
The results of the new study were recently published in the journal Developmental Psychology.