Millennials — people born near the end of the 20th century — are notably progressive when it comes to issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization. But when it comes to disciplining children, they are more likely than older adults to agree that a “good, hard spanking is sometimes necessary,” according to University of Chicago survey data recently reported in The Washington Post.
Seventy-four percent of young adults ages 18-29 approved of spanking, compared to 64 percent of adults older than 65. The Chicago survey results are slightly different from a 2013 Harris survey, which found older adults to be more in favor of spanking.
Specific surveys vary, but polls consistently show a large majority of U.S. adults approve of spanking. A 2014 FiveThirtyEight analysis showed that Americans most likely to approve of spanking are born-again Christians, Southerners, Republicans and African-Americans.
Child development experts generally agree that spanking is ineffective and harmful. Recent research has shown that while spanking does correct misbehavior, it also causes children to act more aggressively: “Corporal punishment actually teaches children is that aggression is an acceptable method of problem solving,” Stacy Drury of Tulane University told Yahoo Health.
Studies have shown that frequent spanking can also affect a child’s brain development and vocabulary.
A 2009 study found that people subjected to “harsh corporal punishment,” defined as a hard spanking at least once a month for three years, were more likely to have reduced volume in the prefrontal cortex. Corporal punishment is also associated with depression, aggression and addiction.
Spanking “creates an emotional state of fear in the child. Physical pain leads children to fear things, and when we are afraid, we don’t learn well,” Drury said.
Lois Collins of the Deseret News shared expert advice on no-spank discipline, focusing on activities that improve parent-child relationships. Effective discipline involves “techniques that teach proper behavior while treating both parent and child with respect,” she wrote.
Parents should model the behavior they want their children to emulate, and that does not include violent aggression or verbal badgering.
With young children, parents may be able to improve discipline by spending more time playing with the child in ways that establish mutual respect. With teens, parents can spend time in honest conversation, truly listening to their children.
Other effective no-spank discipline techniques include time out, ignoring or redirecting bad behavior, setting clear limits, praise and incentives, Deseret News reported.