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Smacking study finds what parents already know
Monday, January 4, 2010

Smacking can be beneficial – as most parents know

FamilyVoice Australia - Media Release - 4 January 2010


"New research by psychology professor Marjorie Gunnoe of Michigan has discovered what most parents already know – that a smack applied with love to a defiant young child can be a valuable form of discipline," said FamilyVoice Australia research officer Mrs Roslyn Phillips (Daily Mail, London, 4/1/10). 

Dr Gunnoe studied 2600 adults, of whom one quarter had never been smacked as children, and found that those who had been physically disciplined during their early years tended to be slightly happier and more successful later in life.  They were more likely as teens to perform better at school, carry out volunteer work and go to university than their unsmacked peers.  Despite Dr Gunnoe’s belief that smacking is a "dangerous" tool, she found no evidence to justify laws banning this form of discipline. 

"We should not be surprised by these results," Ros Phillips said.  "Earlier research has found the same thing – including the gold standard methodology of Dr David Fergusson’s Christchurch Health and Development Study, which has followed up over 1000 children born in Christchurch NZ in 1977."   

Dr Fergusson reported in 1998 that he could find "no evidence that those exposed to occasional physical punishment by parents were at any greater or lesser risk of adjustment problems than those whose parents did not use physical punishment." 

Dr Jane Millichamp, who followed up 1000 children born in Dunedin  NZ in 1972-3, found that in later life,  those who had been smacked lightly with an open hand on the bottom, hand or leg, did as well as or slightly better than, those who had not been smacked (NZ Herald, 7/10/2006). 

"Most parents know this from their own experience," Ros Phillips said. "A typical comment I have heard over the years has been:  ‘Yes, mum and dad gave me a smack from time to time – and I usually deserved it!" 

"Loving parents use several disciplinary methods – including time-out and withdrawal of privileges.  But sometimes a smack is helpful, especially with defiant young children who know they have done wrong and refuse to sit in the ‘naughty corner’.  Hugs can follow the smack – it can be a good ‘teachable moment’," Mrs Phillips said. 


  • Family and parenthood

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