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Cohort study
Child-spanking at age 5 may have a detrimental effect on child externalising behaviour and cognitive development at age 9
  1. Brian B Boutwell
  1. Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Sam Houston State University, Huntsville, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Brian B Boutwell, Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, Sam Houston State University, PO Box 2296, Huntsville, TX 77341, USA; brian.boutwell{at}

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Implications for practice and research

  • Despite the apparent negative consequences, a large number of American parents utilise corporal punishment.

  • The adverse effects of spanking on behaviour seem clear, yet the effects on verbal intelligence remain less certain.

  • Questions remain about the causal effect of spanking on child development; further research with proper controls for heritability is required.


The use of corporal punishment, despite repeated caution from health professionals and developmental researchers, persists as a widespread parenting strategy in the USA.1 As Mackenzie and colleagues note, the prevalence of spanking by American parents appears surprising when one considers the litany of studies linking corporal punishment with deleterious outcomes across the life course. Mackenzie and colleagues extended this body of research by examining …

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  • Competing interests None.