In an article, “Spanking and Child Development: We Know Enough Now to Stop Hitting Our Children,” Elizabeth Gershoff reviews recent research on spanking.
Spanking is defined by Gershoff as “hitting a child on the bottom with an open hand” (p. 133).
Parents use spanking generally in order to reduce undesirable behavior and increase desirable behavior but because it is targeted toward an undesirable behavior can only possibly meet the first parenting goal. But does it work?
Researchers have looked at effects on three undesirable behaviors in children who are spanked: non-compliance in the short term, non-compliance in the long term, and aggression. This area is hard to study in the home because spanking rarely occurs at all nor in front of strangers. It is hard to study in the laboratory because of the prohibition against hurting subjects.