Study Finds Spanking in Low-Income Toddlers Detrimental

Spanking varies among different racial groups; linked to younger maternal age, child fussiness
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Maternal age and children's fussiness may be associated with spanking, which appears to be commonly used on toddlers in low-income families, and may have detrimental effects on the child's cognitive development, according to research published in the September/October issue of Child Development.

Lisa J. Berlin, Ph.D., of Duke University in Durham, N.C., and colleagues analyzed data from 2,573 Caucasian, African-American, and Mexican-American toddlers from low-income families. Researchers interviewed mothers and observed their interactions when the children were approximately 1, 2, and 3 years old.

The researchers found spanking and verbal punishment to vary according to maternal race/ethnicity, with African-American children spanked and verbally punished significantly more than the other children in the study. Child fussiness at the age of 1 year predicted spanking and verbal punishment. Spanking at age 1 appeared to predict children's aggressive behavior at 2 and lower mental development scores at 3 years of age.

"There are several thoughtful discussions in the literature of African-American parents' relatively greater use of spanking. These discussions highlight cultural factors such as a long-standing belief in the importance of children's respect for elders, and in the value of physical discipline to inculcate that respect. These discussions also highlight African-American parents' concerns about preparing their children for such challenges as racial discrimination and physical danger," the authors write.

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