Spare the Rod? Is Spanking a Child Harmful or Helpful? – Part 2 – Do studies show that spanking is an improper form of discipline?

Opposition to parents spanking their children has been growing significantly in elite circles over the past few years. And, my blogs on spanking are among the most read of those I publish. Therefore, I’ve decided to, with the help of the research of my friends Den Trumbull, MD, S. DuBose Ravenel, MD, to look a the arguments used against spanking, to see if they hold any water. This is the second of a 12 part series. Today we’ll start looking at the arguments used against spanking.

Argument #1: Many psychological studies show that spanking is an improper form of discipline.


According to an investigation by Drs. Trumbull and Ravenel, performed for the Family Research Council, researchers John Lyons, Rachel Anderson, and David Larson of the National Institute of Healthcare Research conducted a systematic review of the research literature on corporal punishment.[1]

Among their many findings, they reported that 83% percent of the 132 identified articles published in clinical and psychosocial journals were merely opinion-driven editorials or reviews or commentaries. All were devoid of new empirical findings.[1]

Moreover, most of the empirical studies were methodologically flawed by grouping the impact of abuse with spanking.

The best studies of appropriate, loving spanking (that EXCLUDED from the definition of spanking forms of child abuse or violence) demonstrated beneficial, not detrimental, effects of spanking.

They concluded, as do I, that there is insufficient evidence to condemn parental spanking and adequate evidence to justify its proper use.


[1] Lyons, Dr. John S., Anderson, Rachel L., and Larson, Dr. David B., “The Use and Effects of Physical Punishment in the Home: A Systematic Review.” Presentation to the Section on Bio-Ethics of the American Academy of Pediatrics at annual meeting, Nov. 2, 1993.

Here’s the entire series:

By the way, an introduction is in order. Den A. Trumbull, MD is a board-certified pediatrician in private practice in Montgomery, Alabama. He is Vice President of the American College of Pediatricians. S. DuBose Ravenel, MD is a board-certified pediatrician in private practice in High Point, North Carolina. He served for 11 years on the pediatric faculty of the University of North Carolina School of Medicine prior to entering private practice.

You can read more of my blogs on spanking here:

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