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New study on smacking is deeply flawed
Friday, April 29, 2016

Gold standard research shows adults who were lightly smacked as children end up doing at least as well as those who received no physical discipline


A new meta-analysis by Dr Elizabeth Gershoff and others, purporting to show serious harms when parents smack their children, has failed to distinguish between a light smack and a brutal beating.

“It falls over at the first validity hurdle,” FamilyVoice research officer Ros Phillips said today.  “No one would dispute that children whose parents regularly beat them in anger bear physical and mental scars well into the future.  But this study conflates such violence with smacks delivered by a loving parent in response to deliberate defiance.  There is a world of difference between the two.”

Ros Phillips said the researchers indicated their bias by categorising as a “negative outcome” of physical discipline as a child, the adult belief that smacking is justified!

She said the gold standard research in this area is when children are followed up from birth to adulthood, with regular interviews about their situation.

“A New Zealand 32 year longitudinal study by Dr Jane Millichamp has found that children who had been lightly smacked with an open hand did as well as or slightly better as adults, in terms of aggression, substance abuse and school achievement,  than those who received no physical discipline.

“She told the New Zealand Herald (7/10/06) that adults who had only been smacked during childhood appeared to be particularly high-functioning and achieving members of society.”

Dr Millichamp said: “I have looked at just about every study I can lay my hands on, and there are thousands, and I have not found any evidence that an occasional mild smack with an open hand … is harmful or instils violence in kids.”

Strangely, Dr Gershoff did not include the gold-standard Millichamp study in her meta-analysis.


  • Family and parenthood

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