Title

The strength of the causal evidence against physical punishment of children and its implications for parents, psychologists, and policymakers

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

7-1-2018

Keywords

Causality, Discipline, Parenting, Physical punishment, Spanking

Abstract

The question of whether physical punishment is helpful or harmful to the development of children has been subject to hundreds of research studies over the past several decades. Yet whether causal conclusions can be drawn from this largely nonexperimental research and whether the conclusions generalize across contexts are issues that remain unresolved. In this article, the authors summarize the extent to which the empirical research on physical punishment meets accepted criteria for causal inference. They then review research demonstrating that physical punishment is linked with the same harms to children as is physical abuse and summarize the extant research that finds links between physical punishment and detrimental outcomes for children are consistent across cultural, family, and neighborhood contexts. The strength and consistency of the links between physical punishment and detrimental child outcomes lead the authors to recommend that parents should avoid physical punishment, psychologists should advise and advocate against it, and policymakers should develop means of educating the public about the harms of and alternatives to physical punishment.

Publication Title

American Psychologist

ISSN

0003066X

Volume

73

Issue

5

First Page

626

Last Page

638

DOI

10.1037/amp0000327

PubMed ID

29999352

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