Countries That Ban Spanking See Less Teen Violence

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Oct. 15, 2018 (HealthDay News) -- Nations that officially frown upon hitting kids as a form of punishment appear to have teens who are less prone to violence, new research suggests.

In countries that have a complete ban on corporal punishment (spanking and slapping), the rates of physical fighting among teens are as much as 69 percent lower than in countries without such a ban, the study found.

What isn't clear from this research is whether or not a spanking ban directly caused a reduction in violent behavior.

Study author Frank Elgar, an associate professor of psychiatry at McGill University in Montreal, said there are several possibilities for the association behind spanking bans and lower violence rates among youth.

"There may be some influence of these legal bans that promotes changes in culture. Kids that grow up with this experience -- not getting smacked or spanked -- is one possibility for the association," he said.

Another possibility, Elgar noted, is that there may be something about the country's culture that discourages violence in the first place, and that's why they chose to implement a spanking ban.

But he said there was a significant diversity in the countries that had bans on spanking and slapping.

"We were very surprised looking at countries with a ban on spanking or slapping, that countries that have decided that this is the way parents want to discipline was really a mixed bag. It wasn't based just on economic or cultural factors," Elgar said.

Corporal punishment is defined an adult's use of physical force to correct or control a child's inappropriate behavior. The punishment is meant to be painful, but not to physically injure the child. About 17 percent of teens reported experiencing corporal punishment at school or in the home in the past month, the study team reported.

The researchers looked at 88 countries participating in long-term research on youth violence. Teens in these countries represented nearly half of the world's adolescents.

Thirty countries had full bans on spanking and slapping children at home or in school. Some of the countries with a ban include Estonia, Finland, Honduras, Kenya, New Zealand and Portugal.