One-third of parents resort to spanking to discipline babies

Learning right from wrong is part of growing up, and parents use discipline to help correct their children as part of this process. Some parents use time outs, grounding, and reasoning with children as discipline strategies. Some parents also use physical punishment such as spanking when children misbehave.

Spanking has been in the spotlight in recent years as research has indicated spanking children may increase children’s aggression and lead to depression. But in a study published last week in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, researchers reported that 30% of parents said they had spanked their 1-year-old babies at least once in the past month. Spanking children this young was linked to involvement with child protective services between ages 1 and 5.

We also asked parents about their discipline strategies as part of a 2010 National Poll on Children’s Health. While many parents said they often used multiple discipline strategies, most parents said they were very likely to explain or reason with children, take away something the child enjoys, or use time outs and grounding. Less than one-quarter of parents said they’d spank their children as a discipline strategy, but that number rose to 30% among parents of 2-5-year-old children. Read the full report: Speak or spank? More parents choose reasoning than physical discipline.

Discipline can be a difficult decision for parents, especially when frustration levels are high. But with a great deal of research attention focused on the potential harms of spanking – especially with very young children – it’s important for parents to consider their discipline strategies carefully.