By John-Henry Westen

WASHINGTON, DC, December 3, 2007 ( – The American College of Pediatricians (ACP), a national medical association of licensed physicians and healthcare professionals who specialize in the care of infants, children, and adolescents, has issued a position statement on the use of spanking by parents, just as the Massachusetts legislature takes up a bill to ban that form of parental discipline.

Despite scientific evidence suggesting that reasonable corporal punishment by parents is beneficial to children, the United Nations has pushed nations to ban parents from using spanking as a form of discipline. That interference with parental rights is one of the issues that has caused much consternation over the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

ACP carefully reviewed the available research on corporal punishment and concludes, in its position statement on the subject, that disciplinary spanking by parents can be effective when properly used. “It is clear that parents should not solely rely upon disciplinary spanking to accomplish control of their child’s behavior,” says the just-released position statement. “Evidence suggests that it can be a useful and necessary part of a successful disciplinary plan.”

Den Trumbull, MD, FCP, principal author of the statement explained, “When a child defies a parent’s instruction, spanking is one of a few options parents can consider to correct the misbehavior.”  Trumbull added: “Spanking is most appropriate with children 2 to 6 years old, and when milder types of correction have failed.”

ACP has created a one page handout for parents titled “Guidelines for Parental Use of Disciplinary Spanking”.  The guidelines advise that spanking “should be used only when the child receives at least as much encouragement and praise for good behavior as correction for problem behavior.”  It also says that “milder forms of discipline, such as verbal correction, extinction, logical and natural consequences, and time-out should be used initially, followed by spanking when noncompliance persists.”

“Spanking should not be administered on impulse or when a parent is out of control,” warns the document noting that “a spanking should always be motivated by love, for the purpose of teaching and correcting, and not for revenge or retaliation.” 

The guidelines also detail ages when spanking is appropriate.  “Spanking is inappropriate before 15 months of age and is usually not necessary until after 18 months. It should be less necessary after 6 years and rarely, if ever, used after 10 years of age,” it says. See the guidelines here:…

In addition to its policy statement, ACP has published an extensive review of the scientific literature on the subject of corporal punishment and its use in discipline which is available online here:…