A new study says that parents who spank their children are part of a “vicious cycle” that will lead to more spankings and more misbehavior.
According to the study from the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, in a child’s first 10 years, spankings will lead to more misbehavior in the future.
"You can think of it as an escalating arms race, where the parent gets more coercive and the child gets more aggressive, and they get locked into this cycle," said Michael MacKenzie, study author and associate professor at Columbia University. "These processes can get started really early, and when they do there's a lot of continuity over time."
The study comes from about 1,900 families that were involved in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study.
About 28 percent of mothers said they spanked their child during their first year. Fifty seven percent said they spanked during the first three years and 53 percent reported spanking at age 5. Finally, 49 percent reported spanking at age 9.
The study ends the longtime "chicken or the egg" debate over which comes first, the spanking or the childhood misbehavior, said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental & behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, N.Y.
"I see it starting with the egg, with the egg being the spanking, and then the spanking then leads to more aggressive behavior, and the aggressive behavior then leads to more spanking," Adesman said.
"During the early toddler years, parents probably need to get more counseling or advice on strategies for managing children's behavior without resorting to spanking," Adesman added.