Does spanking create a "vicious cycle" of misbehavior in children or do naturally aggressive kids simply require more spankings? That's the central question of a new study published this week in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence.
The answer, it turns out, is yes to both.
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"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," Michael MacKenzie, an associate professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work in New York City, told HealthDay
. "These processes can get started really early, and when they do there's a lot of continuity over time."
The study analyzed information collected from 1,900 families that participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study, a report conducted by researchers at Columbia and Princeton universities between 1998 and 2000.
Families included in the study had their children assessed during the first year of life and then again at ages 1, 3, 5, and 9, according to HealthDay. The 28 percent of mothers who claimed to have spanked their kids during the child's first year of life increased to 59 percent when their kids were 3, the study found.
Though the findings indicate that spanking seems to be the catalyst for misbehavior, experts say it's more of a "chicken or the egg" argument.
"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," Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental & behavioral pediatrics at Steven & Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, told HealthDay. "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."
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