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Studies dating back to the early 1960s suggest a relationship between corporal punishment and decreased cognitive ability in early childhood.Recent research has added support to these findings.Indeed, much of the aggressive behavior attributed to children who were spanked differentially tends to correspond to interactions where violence is used to exert power over another person—bullying, partner abuse, and so on.Note, however, that these studies focus on regular and/or severe physical punishment in terms of associations with child behavior.Other studies have shown corresponding effects on school achievement.Bodovski and Youn (2010) find that the use of physical discipline in kindergarten is associated with lower fifth grade math achievement. (2010) find that children who were spanked are at higher risk of academic failure in the fifth grade.
Being on the receiving end, children may learn to associate violence with power or getting one’s own way.
Emerging evidence suggests that non-cognitive skills may also be affected.
In an experimental study, Talwar, Carlson, and Lee (2011) tested whether attendance in a punitive versus non-punitive school environment had any effect on West African children’s executive functioning (EF) skills.[iii] They measured children’s abilities using three EF tasks: delay of gratification; gift delay; and dimensional change card sort.
There is also robust evidence of an increased incidence of aggression among children who are regularly spanked.
A 2002 meta-analysis of 27 studies across time periods, countries, and ages found a persistent association: children who are spanked regularly are more likely to be aggressive, both as a child and as an adult.