The Spanking Debate

Ex-Spanker

I once believed in spanking -- not anymore.

Linda Doty, of St. Louis, Missouri, mother of Katie, 23, Amber, 21, Sarah, 10, Jadyn, 4, and Raena, 2, spanked her oldest daughters when they were little. "I was a young mother, and I thought spanking was just what was done," she says. Doty knew experts cautioned against lashing out in anger, so when she found herself chasing her daughter up the stairs to give her a spanking, that was her "lightbulb" moment. "How can this not be in anger? I'm chasing her for it," Doty says. "It was the last time I ever spanked."

The experts respond: Doty is certainly not the only parent who has spanked in anger and frustration. According to the SUNY study, 85 percent of parents report feeling angry and agitated when they spank. And those emotions can be difficult to rein in. "The intensity will continue to rise if the parent continues to be physical," says Dr. Coleman. And that increases the risk of abuse.

Gershoff agrees. In 2002, she analyzed 88 different spanking studies and found 10 negative outcomes in those who are spanked -- including higher risk for aggression and abuse of their own kids or spouse down the line.

Robert Larzelere, PhD, associate professor of human development and family science at Oklahoma State University, in Stillwater, cautions that spanking in frustration sends the message that "if you're frustrated, you can just lash out at whoever you're mad at." And that's not a lesson parents want to teach.

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