Spanking and child outcomes: Old controversies and new meta-analyses

J Fam Psychol. 2016 Jun;30(4):453-69. doi: 10.1037/fam0000191. Epub 2016 Apr 7.


Whether spanking is helpful or harmful to children continues to be the source of considerable debate among both researchers and the public. This article addresses 2 persistent issues, namely whether effect sizes for spanking are distinct from those for physical abuse, and whether effect sizes for spanking are robust to study design differences. Meta-analyses focused specifically on spanking were conducted on a total of 111 unique effect sizes representing 160,927 children. Thirteen of 17 mean effect sizes were significantly different from zero and all indicated a link between spanking and increased risk for detrimental child outcomes. Effect sizes did not substantially differ between spanking and physical abuse or by study design characteristics. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis

MeSH terms

  • Aggression / psychology
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Research Design*