No Longer Up for Debate: Physical Punishment Causes Negative Outcomes for Children

Gershoff, Elizabeth
Goodman, Gail S.
Miller-Perrin, Cindy L.
Holden, George W.
Jackson, Yo
Kazdin, Alan E.
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University of Texas at Austin Population Research Center
A large body of research consistently links parents’ use of physical punishment, including spanking, to harm to their children. This finding holds up across populations, settings, and cohorts. But because it is unethical to conduct randomized controlled trials to study the effects of physical punishment, some critics still debate whether there is a causal link between physical punishment and harm to children. In this brief, the authors, led by PRC faculty research associate Liz Gershoff, find that the research on physical punishment meets five standard criteria for drawing causal conclusions. The message to policymakers, psychologists, and parents is clear: it is time to implement multiple strategies to end this outdated parenting practice.