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Pediatrics. 2004 May;113(5):1321-30.

Spanking in early childhood and later behavior problems: a prospective study of infants and young toddlers.

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  • 1Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Department of Health Policy and Management, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.



To explore the relationship of spanking frequency before age 2 with behavior problems near time of entry into school.


Children who were younger than 2 years were followed up approximately 4 years later, after they had entered school. The likelihood of significant behavior problems at follow-up was estimated in multivariate analyses that controlled for baseline spanking frequency and other characteristics. Participants were mothers from a large-scale national study and their children. Statistical analysis included an ethnically diverse sample of 1966 children aged 0 to 23 months at baseline. Two dichotomous indicators of behavior problems were used. The first indicated that maternal rating of child behavior problems exceeded a threshold. The second indicated that a mother met with a school administrator to discuss her child's behavior problems.


White non-Hispanic children who were spanked more frequently before age 2 were substantially more likely to have behavior problems after entry into school, controlling for other factors. For Hispanic and black children, associations between spanking frequency and behavior problems were not statistically significant and were not consistent across outcome measures.


Among white non-Hispanic children but not among black and Hispanic children, spanking frequency before age 2 is significantly and positively associated with child behavior problems at school age. These findings are consistent with those reported in studies of children older than 2 years but extend these findings to children who are spanked beginning at a relatively early age.

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