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Spanking Is Linked to Dating Violence Later in Life, According to a New Study

Kids who are disciplined with spanking are more likely to be violent toward dating partners, says a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Boy in corner with head in his hands Brian A. Jackson/shutterstock 

Among controversial discipline techniques, corporal punishment may very well be #1. According to the University of Chicago‘s General Social Survey (GSS), which asks respondents, “Do you strongly agree, agree, disagree or strongly disagree that it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking?" around 70% of parents in support of the practice. At the same time, many parents feel it's a huge no-no. Now, researchers are warning against spanking, noting that it may increase your child's likelihood of acting violently toward a romantic partner later in life.

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, involved asking 758 young adults between 19 and 20 years old how often they were physically punished with spankings, slappings or beatings involving objects. 68% said they received punishment along these lines, and 19% said they had acted violently in a dating relationship. The lead author of the study, Jeff Temple of the University of Texas Medical Branch, explained to CNN of the findings, "Kids who said they had experienced corporal punishment were more likely to have recently committed dating violence," Temple told CNN. 

This was the case across the board in the study group, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity, and status. "One of the advantages of our study was to control for child abuse, which we defined as being hit with a belt or board, left with bruises that were noticeable or going to the doctor or hospital," Temple, who specializes in dating, or relationship, violence told CNN. "Regardless of whether someone experienced child abuse or not, spanking alone was predictive of dating violence."

Researchers are careful to note that there are other factors that may lead a young adult to incite dating violence -- like mental health, substance abuse, and attitudes toward women. But a history of corporal punishment weighs in, too. "Corporal punishment is communicating to children that violence is an acceptable means of changing behavior," Temple explained in a statement

The bottom-line, according to Temple? "Not only is this an ineffective strategy for changing behavior or resolving conflict, our study and other research show that physical punishment negatively impacts the short and long-term health and behavior of children."