Corporal Punishment Makes Kids More Aggressive, Study Finds

Spanking and yelling are a popular form of discipline. It’s popular because it’s easy. Everyone seems to be doing it but it’s wrong. A large body of research continues to advise parents against the use of physical punishment. According to research, corporal punishment makes kids even more aggressive and raises the risk of mental health issues.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in its guidelines, clearly asserts that;

Aversive disciplinary strategies, including all forms of corporal punishment and yelling at or shaming children, are minimally effective in the short-term and not effective in the long-term. With new evidence, researchers link corporal punishment to an increased risk of negative behavioral, cognitive, psychosocial, and emotional outcomes for children.

AAP summarises the consequences associated with parental corporal punishment in the following 7 points;

  • Corporal punishment of children younger than 18 months of age increases the likelihood of physical injury;
  • Repeated use of corporal punishment may lead to aggressive behavior and altercations between the parent and child and may negatively affect the parent-child relationship;
  • Corporal punishment is associated with increased aggression in preschool and school-aged children;
  • Experiencing corporal punishment makes it more, not less, likely that children will be defiant and aggressive in the future;
  • Corporal punishment is associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders and cognition problems;
  • The risk of harsh punishment is increased when the family is experiencing stressors, such as family economic challenges, mental health problems, intimate partner violence, or substance abuse; and
  • Spanking alone is associated with adverse outcomes, and these outcomes are similar to those in children who experience physical abuse.

AAP further asserts that;

The association between corporal punishment and adverse adult health outcomes was examined in a 2017 report that analyzed original data from the 1998 Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, which recommended that spanking be considered as an additional independent risk factor, similar in nature and effect to other adverse childhood experiences.

The following are excerpts taken from a study that’s based on 20 years of research. The study was conducted by Joan E Durrant. Joan E Durrant is a Child-Clinical Psychologist and a Professor in the Department of Community Health Sciences. The study shows, among others, that there’s an association between physical punishment and negative developmental outcomes. Read the full text here.

Over the past two decades, we have seen an international shift in perspectives concerning the physical punishment of children. In 1990, research showing an association between physical punishment and negative developmental outcomes was starting to accumulate, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child had just been adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations; however, only four countries had prohibited physical punishment in all settings.

By 2000, research was proliferating, and the convention had been ratified by 191 of the world’s 196 countries, 11 of which had prohibited all physical punishment. Today, research showing the risks associated with physical punishment is robust, the convention has been integrated into the legal and policy frameworks of many nations, and 31 countries have enacted prohibitions against the physical punishment of children. These three forces — research, the convention and law reform — have altered the landscape of physical punishment.

The growing weight of evidence and the recognition of children’s rights have brought us to a historical point. Physicians familiar with the research can now confidently encourage parents to adopt constructive approaches to discipline and can comfortably use their unique influence to guide other aspects of children’s healthy development. In doing so, physicians strengthen child well-being and parent–child relationships at the population level. Here, we present an analysis of the research on physical punishment spanning the past two decades to assist physicians in this important role.

The evidence is clear and compelling — physical punishment of children and youth plays no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development. The conclusion is equally compelling — parents should be strongly encouraged to develop alternative and positive approaches to discipline.

Children learn by watching everyone around them. You. Their guardians. Rewarding positive behaviour and time-outs can be one of the effective strategies. Understanding how to treat your child in different stages in development also helps.

Teach children to say how they feel. If you are really frustrated, you might want to say, “You are driving me crazy right now.” Instead, try to express your actual feelings: “Mommy is really frustrated right now.” This teaches children to say what they feel instead of making critical or hurtful statements. Then help your children do this when they are upset. For example, “It looks like you are feeling sad.” If your guess about how they are feeling is not accurate, allow your children to correct youBring Out the Best in Your Children

Don’t know where to begin? Head over to this offers lots of tips for disciplining younger and older children. Also, you may download this article, titled Bring Out the Best in Your Children in PDF. 


Sege, R. D., Siegel, B. S., ABUSE, C. O. C., & COMMITTEE ON PSYCHOSOCIAL ASPECTS OF CHILD AND FAMILY HEALTH. (2018). Effective discipline to raise healthy children. Pediatrics142(6), e20183112.

Durrant, J., & Ensom, R. (2012). Physical punishment of children: lessons from 20 years of research. CMAJ184(12), 1373-1377.

Gershoff, E. T. (2013). Spanking and child development: We know enough now to stop hitting our children. Child development perspectives7(3), 133-137.

Research on Spanking: It’s Bad for ALL Kids. (n.d.). Retrieved from

What is Time-Out? (2019, November 5). Retrieved from

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Editorial Team
We take our responsibilities seriously as a provider of free parenting resources. Our published articles are therefore written based on evidence-based information parents can rely on. Parenthood is hard. But it’s also the most rewarding. Our first goal is thus to make sure our content is concise, accurate and accessible.