Berlin and colleagues found that children who were spanked as 1-year-olds tended to behave more aggressively at age 2, and did not perform as well as other children on a test measuring thinking skills at age 3. The study is published in the journal Child Development.
The idea is that spanking has negative consequences, making children less intelligent and more aggressive. But what do you think? My thought was that there are two other reasons of possible interest:
1) The kids being spanked are more incorrigible in general, which results in more frustration on the part of the parents.
2) The parents themselves are less intelligent, lack impulse control and are aggressive.
The above two traits of course could exhibit heritability betwen parent and child. Yes, there are plenty of confounds; acceptability of spanking varies from culture to culture. But I think the hypothesis that this is just a correlation between heritable traits and the behavior in question explains the why the “effects were somewhat small.”
This sort of thought process kicks into action with a lot of the developmental psychology I see being reported in the press. But a headline such as “Aggressive impulsive parents more likely to beat their children” is probably less palatable….
Note: I’m against spanking personally in regards to how I’d raise my children. But I assume that my children wouldn’t be totally incorrigible because I was not (those who know me personally might consider this a mischaracterization, but I am not including outlier behavior!).
Labels: Behavior Genetics