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To spank or not to spank, where do you draw the line? - CNN

The meta-analysis was not simply an attempt to synthesize studies—Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor also wanted to address two concerns often raised about the body of research linking spanking to childhood problems. A cross-sectional study might, for instance, find that aggressive year-olds were more likely than docile year-olds to have been spanked as toddlers, but that does not mean that spanking made them aggressive. They may have been spanked because they were acting out back then, too. To address these issues, Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor did several things.

First, they limited their meta-analysis to studies that evaluated the effects of spanking, slapping and hitting children without the use of objects, and found that spanking is still associated with negative outcomes. Gershoff and Grogan-Kaylor found that spanking is associated with negative outcomes in both types of studies, which strengthens the argument that spanking poses risks.

Yet some researchers remain skeptical.

From Genius to Madness

The new analysis also did not completely overcome the lumping problem: It considered slapping and hitting children anywhere on the body as synonymous with spanking but these actions might have distinct effects. Some research also suggests that the effects of spanking differ depending on the reasons parents spank, how frequently they do so and how old children are at the time—so the conclusion from the meta-analysis that spanking itself is dangerous may be overly simplistic.

Finally, the associations reported in the meta-analysis between spanking and negative outcomes did not control for the potential mediating effects of other variables, which raises the chicken-or-egg question: Are kids spanked because they act out or do they act out because they are spanked—or both?

To rule out the possibility that spanking is only associated with bad outcomes because poorly behaved kids are the ones getting spanked, researchers can use statistical methods to control for the influence of temperament and preexisting behavioral characteristics—but these methods are difficult to employ in meta-analyses, and the new analysis did not attempt such a feat.

Science on spanking Parenting advocate Asadah Kirkland, author of the anti-spanking book "Beating Black Kids," also points to a belief held by some African Americans that using physical force to discipline children helps to protect them from the violence of the wider world. Spanking the gray matter out of our kids. Kirkland, who gives workshops to African Americans encouraging them not to discipline with their hands, said the thinking is that if you beat your children, they will be more prepared for any potential "beating up" they'll face in life.

The Great Spanking Debate

This is you rearing a child so that they should have certain values and certain skills that they can only have if you give them to them. Former NBA star Charles Barkley added the regional component to the debate over spanking, when he suggested that a "whipping" is a kind of discipline that many parents in the South "do all the time. Jennifer Alsip, a mom of two, said she comes from a white middle class family in Texas that believes in spankings. In Sweden, a generation of kids who've never been spanked.

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  • To spank or not spank? Depends on who and where you are - CNN.

CNN's Kelly Wallace writes about the "sharp differences in cultural, regional and generational attitudes" toward spanking. Gershoff, the researcher on corporal punishment, said spanking rates are indeed higher in the South than in other parts of the country. Part of that, she said, may be because spanking is more common in families that have a conservative religious background.

Other factors driving corporal punishment, she said, include age, education and income: Younger parents, parents with lower levels of education and parents from lower income levels are more likely to hit their children. Peterson, for his part, indicated he wasn't familiar with other parenting techniques to use when children misbehave. Awareness is crucial, said Gershoff, comparing spanking to seat belts and car seats.

The cultural, regional and generational roots of spanking

We didn't have either in the 60s and 70s when parents let their kids bounce around the backs of station wagons. When old rules of discipline no longer apply.

Parenting Techniques: To Spank or Not to Spank?

We know so much more now about the kinds of things that hurt kids and the kinds of things that help them that we really shouldn't spank anymore. We know it's not a good idea. The research, according to Gershoff, is conclusive: To spank or not to spank: Where do you draw the line?