By Thaddeus M. Baklinski

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, January 5, 2010 ( – A US-based study suggests that spanking isn't harmful for children and, in fact, states that children who had been physically disciplined when they were young, between the ages of 2 and 6, grew up to be happier and more successful, performed better at school as teenagers and were more likely to do volunteer work and to want to go to university, than those who had never been spanked.

The study, conducted under the auspices of the Portraits of American Life Study (PALS) {} by Dr. Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of Psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, found there was a lack of evidence to prove that spanking harmed children, and that spanking used judiciously as the normal consequence for bad behavior is beneficial to children.

“The claims that are made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data,” Gunnoe said.

“I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool – you just don't use it for all your jobs,” she added.

Professor Gunnoe interviewed 2,600 teenagers about being spanked. She found that when participants' answers were compared with their behavior, such as academic success, optimism about the future, antisocial behavior, violence and bouts of depression, those who had been physically disciplined only between the ages of two and six performed best on all the positive measures.

Those who had been spanked between seven and eleven exhibited more negative behavior but were still more likely to be academically successful.

In cases where physical discipline continued beyond the age of 12, or in those who had never received corporal punishment, the children were found to perform more poorly in the indicators that were taken into consideration. Dr. Gunnoe found that almost a quarter of the teens in the study reported they were never spanked.

The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) states 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 organization's position statement. “Evidence suggests that it can be a useful and necessary part of a successful disciplinary plan.”

According to the ACP, effective discipline has three key components: a loving, supportive relationship between parent and child; use of positive reinforcement when children behave well; and, use of punishment when children misbehave.

Many parents who are fearful of using spanking as punishment claim that spanking teaches physically aggressive behavior which the child will imitate.

Aric Sigman, a psychologist and author of “The Spoilt Generation: Why Restoring Authority will Make our Children and Society Happier,” commented on the results of Professor Gunnoe's research.

“The idea that smacking and violence are on a continuum is a bizarre and fetishised view of what punishment is for most parents,” he told the UK Daily Mail.

“If it's done judiciously by a parent who is normally affectionate and sensitive to their child, our society should not be up in arms about that. Parents should be taught to distinguish this from a punch in the face.”

Read related LSN articles:

American College of Pediatricians: “It's Okay for Parents to Spank”; Suggests Guidelines

UN Continues to Push for Criminalization of Spanking

Canada's Top Court Criminalizes Spanking Under 2, Over 12 and With Any Objects