A new book by Murray Straus, founder and co-director of the Family Research Lab and professor emeritus of sociology at the University of New Hampshire, evaluates decades worth of research to make a "definitive case" against spanking.
In his work, Straus found that spanking slows cognitive development and increases antisocial and criminal behavior.
"The Primordial Violence" (Routledge, 2013) features longitudinal data from more than 7,000 U.S. families as well as results from a 32-nation study and presents the latest research on the extent to which spanking is used in different cultures and the subsequent effects of its use on children and on society.
"Research shows that spanking corrects misbehavior," Straus says. "But it also shows that spanking does not work better than other modes of correction, such as time out, explaining, and depriving a child of privileges."
He adds: "Moreover, the research clearly shows that the gains from spanking come at a big cost. These include weakening the tie between children and parents and increasing the probability that the child will hit other children and their parents, and as adults, hit a dating or marital partner. Spanking also slows down mental development and lowers the probability of a child doing well in school."
"More than 100 studies have detailed these side effects of spanking, with more than 90% agreement among them," he says. "There is probably no other aspect of parenting and child behavior where the results are so consistent."
Still, as most parents know, disciplining kids can be tricky business. WebMD suggests that parents focus on rewarding good behavior, be clear about rules to avoid confusion, and when your child is misbehaving, buy yourself some time to calm down before taking action. Parents magazine suggests that sometimes the best way to do so is with a time out, to give everyone a chance to cool off.