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Throughout history, parents and teachers have hit children to try and teach them a lesson. Until the end of the last century, physical punishment of children was generally accepted worldwide. The use of physical punishment, such as spanking, is often a reactive response of adult frustration or anger. Parents who hit their kids typically claim that they were struck during their childhood but turned out okay. However, there have been no studies reporting any benefits from hitting children.

Corporal punishment may seem to stop problematic behavior in the moment; however, the use of corporal punishment does not promote long-term learning or build necessary childhood skills to effectively self-manage. The results of the numerous studies reveal the following negative effects of corporal punishment:

Increased aggression

Children who are hit are more likely to be aggressive toward their peers, approve of violence in relationships, bully others, and be aggressive toward their parents. Researchers from Tulane University (, found that children who are spanked often, starting at age three, are more likely to show aggressive behavior by the time they’re five than children who are not spanked.

Aggression is a reflexive response to experiencing pain. When children grow up with the understanding that violence is an appropriate way to get what you want, they’ll mimic this behavior.

Exacerbated bad behavior

Spanking may seem to stop bad behavior at the time, but in the long term it only makes the child behave worse. In fact, corporal punishment has been linked to negative behaviors like bullying, lying, cheating, running away, school behavioral problems and involvement in crime.

Mental health challenges

Hitting not only causes physical pain, but lingering emotional pain as well. It’s been associated with behavioral disorders, anxiety disorders, depression, suicide attempts, alcohol and drug dependency, low self-esteem, hostility, and emotional instability.

Researchers observed that children’s brains are actually altered when they are frequently spanked (at least once a month for more than three years). These children had less grey matter in certain areas of the prefrontal cortex, which has been linked to depression, addiction, and other mental health disorders. The change in grey matter also affects a child’s IQ, decision making, and thought processing capabilities.

There are however other methods on discipline that are more effective and less harmful to children. Free State Care in Action is focussed on empowering parents and caregivers to be able to practice constructive discipline methods. Social workers provide parental guidance to parents through individual sessions and group work.  For more information contact Free State Care in Action at 051-4446143.