The proportion of parents who spank their children has declined from 50% in 1993 to 35% in 2017, according to a new report in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. In that 25-year span, University of Minnesota researchers surveyed 16,390 adults when they were age 35 and had at least one child 2 to 12 years old.
The decline in using spanking as punishment was slightly greater among men than women (dropping from 52 to 36% among men, and from 48 to 35% among women). Although the prevalence of spanking dropped 15 percentage points overall, it declined more among parents of 2- to 4-year-olds – from 60% in 1993 to 39% in 2017.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages the use of spanking and other forms of corporal punishment to discipline children. While such punishments may put an immediate stop to bad behavior, studies have shown an increased risk for long-term negative effects, including increased aggressive behavior, anxiety and depression, the academy says.
Regular use of corporal punishment also has been linked to the development of more distant parent-child relationships. Instead, the academy encourages parents to use positive reinforcement for good behavior, help children learn to regulate their own behavior, set limits and consequences, and use timeouts and other methods.