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APA Says Spanking Is Harmful to Childhood Mental Health


By Juliette Virzi, The Mighty

The American Psychological Association (APA) has taken an official stance on a hotly debated topic in the parenting community — spanking.

On Monday, the APA released a resolution on physical discipline of children by parents, citing research over the years that outlines how spanking can put a child’s mental health at risk as well as increase a child’s inclination towards aggressive behavior.

“Physical discipline by parents has been associated with heightened risk for harm to children’s mental health,” the APA resolution states. “Research has shown that children learn from the behavior modeled by parents, and therefore physical discipline may teach undesirable conflict resolution practices.”

Though the APA makes the distinction that physical discipline and physical abuse of children are not synonymous, there is evidence that shows physical discipline can escalate into actions that meet the criteria for child abuse.

In addition to the consequences of spanking on a child’s mental health, the APA found that physical discipline wasn’t even an effective method for decreasing unwanted behavior in a child. It said:
Research indicates that physical discipline is not effective in achieving parents’ long-term goals of decreasing aggressive and defiant behavior in children or of promoting regulated and socially competent behavior in children.

Instead of spanking, the APA recommends using disciplinary methods that encourage positive outcomes for children including reasoning, time outs, taking away privileges, warnings and ignoring misbehavior.
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