Hands Off! Children Who are Spanked Have Lower IQs

The results of new research by a sociology professor show that children who get spanked have lower IQs than those who were not spanked, and those who were frequently spanked show a slower development of mental ability.

“All parents want smart children. This research shows that avoiding spanking and correcting misbehavior in other ways can help that happen. The results of this research have major implications for the well being of children across the globe.” – University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus

Straus’ study found that children in the U.S. who were spanked had lower IQs four years later than those who were not spanked. The study used samples of 806 children aged 2 to 4 years old, and 704 children aged 5 to 9, tested 4 years apart.

The IQs of children aged 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked. Children aged 5 to 9 years old who were not spanked had IQs 2.8 points higher after four years than the IQs of children the same age who were spanked.

“It is time for psychologists to recognize the need to help parents end the use of corporal punishment and incorporate that objective into their teaching and clinical practice. It also is time for the United States to begin making the advantages of not spanking a public health and child welfare focus, and eventually enact federal no-spanking legislation.” – Straus

Straus also says that the frequency of the spankings made a difference, with more spanking leading to slower mental development, yet even a small amount of spanking has an impact on the child.

According to the professor, corporal punishment is extremely stressful and can become a chronic stressor for young children. His research found that the stress of corporal punishment shows up as an increase in post-traumatic stress symptoms such as being fearful that terrible things are about to happen and being easily startled. These symptoms are associated with lower IQ.

We don’t spank our kids, and I feel strongly that parents who spank their kids might just need a good spanking themselves.

All of the parents I know would be very upset if their kids were bullied, yet some parents insist on their right to bully their own kids, and justify it by quoting “Spare the rod, spoil the child”, or by saying “I was spanked, and I’m just fine”.

I beg to differ. Most of those who claim to be just fine are fighting their own demons, whether it’s self esteem or fear of not conforming to society’s ‘norms’.

Disagree? Want to defend your “laying on of hands”? Leave a comment.

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

15 thoughts on “Hands Off! Children Who are Spanked Have Lower IQs

  • September 28, 2009 at 3:30 pm

    The freedom to discipline ones offspring without penalty or perjury is a line that state nannyism should not cross.
    There are places in the world that criminalise parental/guardian discipline and its directly traceable to smarter bullies that know all about there “rights” and very little of responsibilities and social mores that result in benign individuals that care for the most vulnerable citizens taking there own life, despite the innumerate requests to Law enforcement agencies to intervene to defend the peaceful enjoyment of ones life, liberty and property.
    Whilst public flogging possibly would have been to extreme a measure for such a heinous crime, I think a healthy smack on the arse and a firm explanation as to why a few years ago would have more than likely prevented this.
    Maybe all the ‘youths’ needed was a good hug eh?

    • September 29, 2009 at 9:04 am

      (I’m not sure how to address you, since you are basically anonymous) I’m not advocating “nannyism”, but I also don’t think kids are our possessions to do with as we please. Every move we make as parents affects them as they grow up, and by showing them that we can physically harm them because they’re smaller than us, it teaches the same behavior we don’t want to see in them. Hypocritical, to say the least.

      If we treat our kids as possessions to do with as we wish, we are forgetting that when they reach adulthood, they go out into the world and act and react based on what they experienced as children. That tells me that we need to think bigger than our own immediate reactions (which are generally from an anger about them not doing what we want, and says more about the parent’s state of mind than “prevention” of heinous crimes), as those children become the adults who form our society.

      As far as those “places in the world that criminalize parental/guardian discipline”, and the “directly traceable” connection to smarter bullies, well, I’d love to see some supporting evidence for that. What about the cultural environment they live in, or the amount and type of media they consume, or how their parents treat each other? Show me the studies that prove that corporal punishment prevents bullies.

      As a societal norm, we frown on hitting our animals, but hitting a kid is OK?

      I’m not an advocate for simply giving kids hugs as discipline, but smacking them doesn’t work – I know many who were smacked as kids that were extremely resentful of their parents as a result, and were just more determined to not get caught afterward.

      (I tried to follow your link, but it just leads me to a general Google news page, not a specific article.)

      As far as state “nannyism”, where do you draw the line? Is it OK for the government to make any laws? Why? Would you say that child abuse laws are “nannyism”? Is public education or social security “nannyism”? How about mandatory auto insurance or taxes?

      Do you have kids? Are you willing to leave a comment with your real name, justifying why you spank them?

      • October 6, 2009 at 6:42 am

        I don’t with spanking at all. But, I have a serious problem with using faulty data to make a case against it. What is the significance of a couple of points on a test? What is the efficacy of cognitive testing anyway. Puhleaze, the best way to lose one’s argument is to overstate one’s case, and I personally have no appreciation for such shenanigans with an issue so important.

        • October 6, 2009 at 9:47 am

          Bunnyshank – I agree, it’s only a couple of points, but evidently it was deemed significant enough to be published in a peer-reviewed journal. I guess for me, it does show an effect, even if a small one.

      • February 19, 2011 at 5:44 pm

        Hello. I am a middle school student researching for a persuasive essay in English class. I read your comment and saw that it is the exact opinion I need to support my case. Would it be alright if I quote you?

  • October 15, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Child buttock-battering vs. DISCIPLINE:

    Child buttock-battering for the purpose of gaining compliance is nothing more than an inherited bad habit.

    Its a good idea for people to take a look at what they are doing, and learn how to DISCIPLINE instead of hit.

    I think the reason why television shows like “Supernanny” and “Dr. Phil” are so popular is because that is precisely what many (not all) people are trying to do.

    There are several reasons why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea. Here are some good, quick reads recommended by professionals:

    Plain Talk About Spanking
    by Jordan Riak,

    The Sexual Dangers of Spanking Children
    by Tom Johnson,

    by Lesli Taylor M.D. and Adah Maurer Ph.D.

    Most compelling of all reasons to abandon this worst of all bad habits is the fact that buttock-battering can be unintentional sexual abuse for some children. There is an abundance of educational resources, testimony, documentation, etc available on the subject that can easily be found by doing a little research with the recommended reads-visit http://www.nospank.net.

    Just a handful of those helping to raise awareness of why child bottom-slapping isn’t a good idea:

    American Academy of Pediatrics,
    American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry,
    Center For Effective Discipline,
    PsycHealth Ltd Behavioral Health Professionals,
    Churches’ Network For Non-Violence,
    Nobel Peace Prize recipient Archbishop Desmond Tutu,
    Parenting In Jesus’ Footsteps,
    Global Initiative To End All Corporal Punishment of Children,
    United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

    In 26 countries, child corporal punishment is prohibited by law (with more in process). In fact, the US was the only UN member that did not ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  • January 2, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    I believe a child can learn through other disciplinary means, time-outs, etc, but I don’t disagree with spanking. Corporal punishment, if done the right way, is not harmful to the child in any way, mentally, sexually, or developmentally. Time-outs and taking away of privileges are simply not effective on a majority or children, and simply rewarding them for doing what they should be doing anyways ingrains a sense of entitlement that cripples their self-motivation and sense of accountability in later life.

    What dilutes the findings of this and other scientific reviews is they don’t look into the method of corporal punishment other than the parent hitting the child, whether with an object or hand. It also does not look into the parents. Its a whole other conversation, but more and more parents are becoming so without having the upbringing needed to incorporate discipline in a loving, calm manner. Parents reacting out of anger, frustration, and lack of thought are more and more prevalent in today’s society and leading to the two extremes of either not using corporal punishment at all (which is not wrong, just not best for all children and all circumstances), or using it as an act of desperation that is not controlled by love, or discipline themselves (wrong, period). Corporal punishment is the most effective means of instilling a sense of right and wrong in a child, when done the right way.

    1. NEVER spank out of anger. If you’re angry with your child, take a time out yourself. If a child is punished out of anger, they’ll learn that A. Its ok to lash out in anger themselves, and B. When you’re angry/upset/they do something wrong, they should be afraid of you.

    2. NEVER use your hand, that makes it personal. You need to be able to make it clear that its not about hitting. Its about being held accountable and accepting the consequences of their inappropriate actions. Use a neutral object consistently, ie: a wooden spoon, “consistently” meaning don’t grab whatever’s around (belt, stick).

    3. NEVER spank in public places. It should be in the privacy of their room, its not about humiliation.

    My brother and I were spanked, and I can definitely say we were well above the 3 times per week threshold! We also both received full academic scholarships for college (my brother to the hardest school to get into in the nation the Naval Academy). We also received a lot of personal attention from our parents, being home-schooled through 8th grade. Its interesting that on average home-schooled children are more likely to be spanked by their parents, and yet also more likely to attend college, and score higher on standardized tests, so that conflicts with the referenced study’s findings. That’s another whole conversation as well.

    In short, I don’t have a problem with those who disagree with spanking, and I don’t think its the best way for every child. I’d be happy to never have to spank my son. I do have a problem with faulty/incomplete science giving corporal punishment a blanket branding of abuse, while not looking into a clearer more complete picture.
    .-= Danny´s last blog ..Surfing the Arctic =-.

    • January 2, 2010 at 2:06 pm

      Danny – I appreciate the thought behind your comment, and can’t really defend the study, but rather thought that it was interesting that they did study something like this.

      My problem with spanking is that it involves using our bigger bodies to dominate their smaller bodies. We’re bigger and can do as we please with them. But when we grow up, we’re expected to not use our bodies to influence or punish others.

      I’ll just respectfully disagree with you on this part “Corporal punishment is the most effective means of instilling a sense of right and wrong in a child, when done the right way.” Even if it is “the most effective means” I don’t think that I could ever bring myself to believe that hitting/spanking/smacking my child is the best choice.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  • July 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    If ever their was a case for disrespect of authority, you will find it in kids that have never felt corporal punishment..

    I am not referring to the extreme cases which “is” abuse, but the lack of respect in children today, is a reflection of idiotic parents thinking that “talking” accomplishes anything by itself..

    When there is no concern for a response to a negative action taken by a child, the effects are the child takes over the “alpha” status of the house away from the parents (partially due to government sponsored ways that give children the tools to put a parent in jail for the child just not getting their way)

    My father would have put me through a wall if I disrespected him in any way that challenged who was in control (parent or child) of the household..

    I was given corporal punishment growing, and I am a telecommunications engineer supervisor for a company that spans more then one state and is in other countries as well, and Have an immediate boos who is the senior vice president, present on board meetings, and share holder meetings..

    There is no truth in those articles (form my own experience) except to wrest more control form the parents…

    • September 23, 2010 at 8:29 am

      I think when it comes to the issue of corporal punishment, discipline is far less of a factor than it’s made out to be. Granted, I don’t have children; but I have 3 nieces as well as child care experience in the workplace. What I have learned is that it is pretty easy to emotionally/intellectually manipulate a child into acting properly/not doing what they’re not supposed to do.

      Corporal punishment, like all violence, is really just the easiest, quickest way to get your point across – which is fine for those too simple-minded to go about things any other way, but know that in doing so, a parent is setting their child up for a lifetime of viewing violence as the solution to the world’s problems. <—– is a prime reason why Americans maintain a 'bomb-first' mentality.

  • September 23, 2010 at 8:10 am

    While I don’t agree with anything else the first commenter said, I do believe that passing legislation at a federal level would be a poor course of action to take, if one really wants to end spanking. Remember when the PM in New Zealand tried to do this a few years back? All the angry parents who get a kick out of beating up on kids FLIPPED OUT! It ended up being a political firestorm that did nothing for anyone.

    Instead of legislation, I think that public schools should have someone from the American Psychological Association or the AMA to come in once a year for Parent-Teacher conferences to seriously talk to parents about whether they want their child to have as strong a future as they possibly can, or if parents want to continue to hit their children.

    I’m sure I’ve made my opinion on spanking perfectly clear, but I’ll reiterate it just for the sake of joining the conversation. I was spanked frequently as a child (granted, I was a total brat), and it certainly taught me that force expedites results. I don’t think I could ever hit a child though; that’s not how I want future generations to react to adversity (that is, with their fists instead of their noggins).

    Thanks for posting, Derek!!!

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  • December 19, 2011 at 10:02 am

    Question: “What does it mean to ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’?”

    Answer: The phrase “spare the rod, spoil the child” comes from Proverbs 13:24, “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.” The Lord uses discipline to reveal our sin to us. This is also how parents reveal the truth of our need for a Savior to their children. When a child does not feel the consequence of his sin, he will not understand that sin requires punishment. The Lord provides a way to salvation and forgiveness through Jesus, but that means little to those who do not see their sin.

    Furthermore, correction shows us that we are not above reproach and that we are accountable for our actions. Our natural pride blinds us to our need for a Savior, and discipline reveals the truth of our wretchedness (Revelation 3:17). Since salvation is the most important choice the child will ever make, it is imperative that parents are leading them to Christ, and discipline is critical to this process. Proverbs 23:13 says, “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you punish him with the rod, he will not die.” In the context of verse 13-14, “die” means spiritual death of hell. Children who respect authority and feel sorrow for their sin are much more likely to ask Jesus to forgive them and be saved.

    All children are born sinful (Romans 5:12-19). Their natural self is destructive and unrighteous. That does not mean they aren’t infinitely valuable and worthy of love (Psalm 127:3). It means that they are not born with any natural “goodness” in them. That is why all children need discipline. Proverbs 22:15 says “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline will drive it far from him.” Discipline is critical for wisdom (Proverbs 29:15), and a child who obeys his parents will be wise (Proverbs 13:1). And even adults who do not heed correction will feel the consequences of their foolishness (Proverbs 10:13).

    Some people believe in discipline, but not in physical discipline such as spanking. However, the Bible is the final word on what is truth; it is not mere opinion or theory. The word “rod” indicates a thin stick or switch that can be used to give a small amount of physical pain with no lasting physical injury. A child should never be bruised, injured, or cut by a physical correction. The Bible warns that parents should never abuse the power and authority they have over their children while they are young because it provokes the children to righteous anger (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). Physical discipline is always done in love, never as a vent to the parent’s frustration. It is also just one part of discipline and should be used when the child shows defiance to a clear limit, not in the heat of the moment.

    God instructs parents to parent their children the way He parents His children. Hebrews 12:5-11 tells us that God disciplines those whom He loves to perfect their righteousness. God only disciplines His own, which proves that Christians are His beloved children. Notice that David says that the Lord’s rod comforts him in his time of trouble (Psalm 23:4).

    Finally, we know that no discipline feels good while it is happening, but afterwards the rewards are rich (Hebrews 12:11). Godly character, fruit of the spirit, and peace are rewards of God’s discipline. The same is true for our human children. Children who have learned how to take responsibility for their actions are much happier people (Proverbs 3:11-18). The importance of the rod of correction is that it steers the heart of a child toward Jesus and forgiveness of sin He offers. When parents trust God’s methods over their own, they will see the blessings for their children and themselves.

    • December 19, 2011 at 10:34 am

      There are so many things wrong with your comment, I’m not sure where to start. But I guess since you think your bible is infallible, that’s where we’ll go with this.

      A loving God would never advocate violence upon one’s children, but zealots like you want justification for your actions, and seek it in your book. The Bible is a misquoted history book with a great many authors (many of whom are not known), which has been edited to serve different groups at different times.

      It also contradicts itself, and lends it to being quoted out of context, as you just did. Since you believe that the Bible is the final word on what is truth, then here’s your next task: To put to death your children when they ‘smite’ or ‘curse’ you (Exodus 21:15,17). Or how about keeping your women quiet? “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

      So, kill your kids, keep your wife (wives) silent, and buy child slaves (Leviticus 25:45).

      Sounds like a great combination – Call it the gospel of love, but you still get to be dominant over your women and children (and take multiple wives and concubines, don’t forget) and kill those who don’t agree with your particular brand of mythic stories.

      My wish for you: May someone beat you with a rod when you do something wrong. And then tell you that the “rewards are rich”.

  • April 9, 2012 at 6:26 am

    I was raised with a few spankings myself but I ended up okay today. Although it was an advantage on my part, I wouldn’t want to do the same way of disciplining to my kids. I believe that there are more positive ways to impose punishments to kids who are disobedient. Each parent may have their own ways of parenting their kids:
    …But the thing is, we should see to it that the punishments we give are reasonable enough based on their ages and the gravity of their wrongdoings. We wouldn’t want our kids to grow up with less self-esteem and be more struggling.


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