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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (RNS) While timeouts and other disciplinary methods are encouraged by some child psychologists, a Calvin College psychology professor says her research shows corporal punishment forms more well-adjusted people later in life.
Marjorie Gunnoe says the study finds children who remember being spanked on the backside with an open hand do better in school, perform more volunteer work and are more optimistic than others who were not physically disciplined.
“This in no way should be thought of as a green light for spanking,” said Gunnoe, who has studied spanking for more than a decade.
Her research contradicts claims that spanked children are more aggressive and have other detrimental consequences.
The practice should be considered when lawmakers across the county consider banning spanking, Gunnoe said, noting 24 countries have barred the punishment.
“This is a red light for people who want to legally limit how parents choose to discipline their children,” she said. “I don’t promote spanking, but there’s not the evidence to outlaw it.”
Gunnoe presented her findings at a conference of the Society for Research in Child Development. The research shows the punishment is most effective on children between the ages of 2 and 6, Gunnoe found. The study did not consider the frequency or severity of the discipline.
The data are swipes at the norm and Gabe Griffin, of Pediatric Psychologists of West Michigan, warns against embracing a new style of parenting.
“It can very easily cross over from a discipline in a calm, measured way to an out of control moment,” Griffin said. “Parents always think it’s in a controlled manner, but clearly it’s not.
“Obviously it’s not going to harm every kid, but the potential is there and it isn’t worth the risk.”
— Nate Reens
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.

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