Smacking ‘makes your child more successful’

CHILDREN who are smacked by their parents may grow up to be happier and more successful than those spared physical discipline, research suggests.

A study found that children smacked until the age of six did better at school and were more optimistic than those never hit by their parents.

They were also more likely to undertake voluntary work and keener to attend university, experts discovered.

The research, conducted in America, is likely to anger children’s rights campaigners who have fought, unsuccessfully, to have smacking banned in Britain.

Parents are allowed by law to mete out “reasonable chastisement” to their children, as long as the smacking does not leave a mark or bruise. These limits were clarified in the 2004 Children’s Act.

But children’s groups and MPs have argued that spanking is an outdated form of punishment that can cause long-term mental health problems. Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed that there was insufficient evidence to support an outright ban on spanking.

She said: “The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data.

“I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don’t use it for all your jobs.” The research questioned 179 teenagers about how often they were smacked as children and how old they were when last spanked.

Their answers were then compared with information they gave about their behaviour that could have been affected by smacking. This included negative effects such as anti-social behaviour, early sexual activity, violence and depression, as well as positives such as academic success and ambitions. Those who had been smacked until the age of six performed better in almost all the positive categories and no worse in negative categories than those who were never spanked.

Those smacked from age seven to 11 were also found to be more successful at school than those not smacked, but fared less well on some negative measures, such as getting involved in more fights.

However, teenagers who said they were still being smacked scored worst of all groups across all categories.

There was little difference in the results between sexes and racial groups.

The findings were rejected by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, which has fought to ban smacking.

A spokesman said: “Other research has shown that smacking young children … makes them more likely to be anti-social.”

However, Parents Outloud, the pressure group, welcomed the research and said parents should not be criminalised for mild smacking.