Research Shows That Spanking Actually Changes How a Kid’s Brain Develops

Krista Torres

Every parent chooses how to discipline their children. While some moms and dads can barter with some “time-outs” other choose to go down a more physical route: spanking.

Spanking has long since been a controversial means of discipline. Many moms feel that spanking isn’t necessary, since you can discipline a child in a less aggressive way, but others feel spanking is the only way for the child to truly learn (since they know Mom or Dad aren’t kidding around!).

One mom decided to sit down with licensed psychologist and school psychologist Dr. Han Ren to talk about how spanking can lead to some real detrimental effects in a kid’s brain.

“As humans, that’s one of the ways that we have always known to problem-solve. As we have evolved and matured and found different ways of problem-solving, brutality has become less and less acceptable,” she explained.

In the interview, Dr. Ren said that the reason many parents spank is “because people say, ‘I was spanked and that’s how I know how to discipline my children,’” she said. “They don’t have access to alternatives so they think this is the only way they can raise law-abiding good citizens.”

Of course, that’s not the case. And just because you were raised a certain way, doesn’t mean that your kids need to go through the same thing—especially if it can cause issues down the road.

Dr. Ren dives into the research—of which is plentiful—looking at the long-term effects of kids who were spanked. It turns out that consistent spanking may be linked to depression, anxiety, anger problems and more.

“In addition, we’ve seen poor cognitive development, such as difficulty with concentration, thinking, and planning. Poor emotional regulation, poor personal conflict resolution, and other maladaptive, problematic outcomes,” she added.

In the latest research published in the Harvard Gazette, spanking has been found to possibly affect brain development in children—in ways similar to some forms of violence, the study states.

The study looked at various parts of the brain and found that, while all kids who were studied had an increase in brain activation when looking at fearful faces compared to neutral faces, the ones who had been consistently spanked had a much higher level of activation to fearful faces and a lower level of activation to neutral faces compared to the kids who weren’t spanked.

So if not spanking, what are some of the less harmful ways to discipline your kid? Check out what Dr. Ren has to say in the interview below, plus be sure to follow her for more advice on TikTok.

Did you know spanking could cause these kinds of ever-lasting effects on kids?