Spanking and Mental Health

Visual from the Good Men Project. . .

Several years ago, doc students in our Counseling and Supervision program started teasing me for being preoccupied with corporal punishment in general and spanking in particular. Somehow they found my concerns about adverse mental health outcomes linked to spanking as entertaining. They were very funny about it, and so although I was somewhat puzzled, mostly I was entertained by their response, and so it was, as they say . . . all good.

Despite their occasional heckling about spanking and despite my BIG concerns about the adverse outcomes of corporal punishment, I haven’t really done any direct research on the effects of spanking. Maybe one reason I haven’t done any spanking research is because Elizabeth Gershoff of UT-Austin has already done so much amazing work. In an effort to help make her work more mainstream, today I published an article with the Good Men Project titled, “How to Discipline Children Better Without Spanking.” The article begins . . .

“As children across the country headed back to school, some students in Missouri returned to find corporal punishment, with parental approval, reinstated in their district. They joined students in 19 other states where corporal punishment is still legal in schools. At home, most American parents—an estimated 52%—agree or strongly agree that “it is sometimes necessary to discipline a child with a good, hard spanking” Parents hold this opinion despite overwhelming scientific evidence that spanking is linked to mental, emotional, and behavioral problems. In a well-known and highly regarded study of over 1,000 twins, Elizabeth Gershoff of the University of Texas at Austin found that spanking was linked to lying, stealing, fighting, vandalism, and other delinquent behaviors. Gershoff’s findings are not new.”

You can check out the full article here:

Also, a big thanks to Kristine Maloney of TVP Communications for her edits and for helping get this piece published.

Happy Tuesday!

John SF

9 thoughts on “Spanking and Mental Health”

  1. I think your students were likely heckling you because spanking is sexualized. I think there may be a generational/cultural difference in perceptions/ideas of spanking that could be playing a part. -a millennial therapist

      1. I really enjoy reading your blog because of your warm insightful approach and your willingness to share your experiences. I like that you approach your blog as-not just a professional-but also a person. I hadn’t thought of you as clueless, I just thought maybe you hadn’t considered this possibility since different generations may have different ideas/associations about that concept.

      2. And I enjoyed your comment. I knew there was something underneath their teasing. Now that I think back, I was supervising one student who was researching porn (her idea, not mine!), so that may have been a tip-off as to some of the reasons for their behavior. Thanks very much for your nice comments about the blog. I appreciate it! JSF

  2. Hi, John–I am sure you know about GM, but I thought this was a great video. Thank you for doing what you do. –Stuart Gunter

    9:10 real relationship doesn’t depend on words.

  3. Thank you for your timely post which I will be sharing with my orientation class. We were discussing in class last night the use of spanking and my some students didn’t buy what I was saying about spanking. Hopefully the additional information will be sufficient to open their eyes. Thank you for all that you do!

    1. Thanks Steve! If your students don’t buy into what you’re saying, you can always refer them to science. Of course, these days lots of people won’t change their pre-existing beliefs anyway, but it’s worth a try. The spanking science is just sort of so completely one-sided that allegiance to science-free ideology is the only way to counter it.

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