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Publication #FAR0043

Debates over Spanking1

Suzanna Smith2

Figure 1. 
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Many parents spank their children as a way to teach right and wrong and wonder whether this is best for their children. Likewise, among child development researchers there has been a lot of debate about whether physical punishment is the best way to discipline a child. Spanking does produce immediate results—it stops the child's misbehavior. Spanking may not always be harmful unless it is excessive, and some professionals suggest some guidelines for calm, controlled ways of spanking that may effectively stop misbehavior (Baumrind 1996).

Other studies show that spanking may work in the short run, but over time the parent may have to spank harder and longer to get the child to stop misbehaving, and the child may misbehave more (Grogan-Kaylor 2004). In addition, children who are spanked may not learn how to control themselves based on choices about right and wrong. And, sadly, when parents spank out of anger, physical punishment may escalate and injure the child (Gershoff 2002).

Parents can choose from many ways of disciplining and guiding their child, such as time-outs or taking away privileges. Parents can also use reasoning; they can explain to their child what they did wrong and what they could do differently. They can set a good example by showing the child how to behave appropriately. Most of all, parents can create a positive climate in the home by praising and encouraging good behavior and giving a child attention and love. If you are having difficulty with your child's behavior, seek professional help for finding the best ways to guide your growing child.

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Children's Institute International (n.d.). Break the spanking habit. [delinked 28 September 2012]

Gershoff, E. T. (2002). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: A meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539-579.

Grogan-Kaylor, A. (2004). The effect of corporal punishment on antisocial behavior in children. Social Work Research, 28, 153-162.

Larzelere, R. E., Baumrind, D., & Polite, K. (1998). Two emerging perspectives of parental spanking from two 1996 conferences. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 152, 303-304.

Powell, C. (2004). "Children are unbeatable": A nurse's perspective. Paediatric Nursing, 15, 29-30.

Straus, M.A., Sugarman, D. B., & Giles-Sims, J. (1997). Spanking by parents and subsequent antisocial behavior of children. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 151, 761-767.

Straus, M. A., Sugarman, D. B., & Giles-Sims, J. (1998). In reply. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, 152, 306-309.

Walsh, W. (2002). Spankers and nonspankers: Where they get information on spanking. Family Relations, 51, 81-89.



This document is FAR0043, one of a series of the Family Youth and Community Sciences Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Broadcast as program 190 and published February 2008. Revised May 2008. Reviewed January 2015. In the interest of time and/or clarity, the broadcast version of this script may have been modified. Visit the EDIS website at


Suzanna Smith, associate professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, University of Florida, and executive producer, Family Album Radio, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.