Using corporal punishment, such as spanking, when disciplining children is detrimental and leads to lasting effects, a leading professional association says in a new policy statement.
In an update to its past statements, the American Academy of Pediatrics "strengthens its call to ban corporal punishment." The updated statement, published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, states that corporal punishment is "minimally effective in the short-term and not effective in the long-term." Additionally, new research links corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children to "an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial and emotional outcomes for children."
Dr. Robert Sege, co-author of the policy statement and former member of the association's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, said in a press release that mental and physical corporal punishment can adversely affect children socially and academically.
"The good news is, fewer parents support the use of spanking than they did in the past," Sege said. "Yet corporal punishment remains legal in many states, despite evidence that it harms kids – not only physically and mentally, but in how they perform at school and how they interact with other children."
According to the association, verbal and physical corporal punishment can cause children to become fearful in the short term. And it does not improve behavior in the long term. It can also lead to outbursts of aggression. A study conducted by the pediatric association found that 3-year-olds who were spanked more than twice monthly were more aggressive at 5 years old.
Those same children continued to have negative behavior at 9 years old and had lower vocabulary scores. Corporal punishment, including yelling and shaming a child, elevates stress hormones, which leads to changes in the brain. According to the association, verbal abuse is linked with mental health problems in preteens and adolescents.
With the updated policy, the association says it hopes to "help families devise more effective disciplinary plans that help them to maintain a calm and controlled behavior."
Dr. Benjamin Siegel, co-author of the statement, said in the release that rewarding positive behavior is an effective way to discipline children.
"It's best to begin with the premise of rewarding positive behavior," Siegel said. "Parents can set up rules and expectations in advance. The key is to be consistent in following through with them."'
Additionally, Dr. Sege said there is "no benefit to spanking" and "positive role modeling" is better.
"We know that children grow and develop better with positive role modeling and by setting healthy limits," Sege said in the release. "We can do better."