Spanking and Child Development during the First Five Years of Life

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Updated: Mar 31, 2023
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Research Problem

The major research problem that has been identified in the research is spanking. Sparking is a common practice among parents of young children in the United States. The authors further illustrate that approximately a third of American families report cases of spanking for children as young as 10 to 18 months of age. The authors have been able to justify the research problem by stating that spanking is an effective means of behavioral control that does not result in unintended developmental consequences or lasting damage to children.

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The purpose of the article was to examine associations of spanking with child behavior problems and cognitive skills over the first five years of children’s lives.

The qualitative approach to the research question is justified by the researchers. The research problem is spanking and child development during the first five years of life. In the article, there is a theoretical basis that involves several authors who have tried to respond to the research problem in various dimensions. In modern industrial societies, parents bear primary responsibility for the socialization of children, and parents play a crucial role in influencing child health, development, and wellbeing and setting the stage for children to become well-functioning members of society. We can state there is a relation between the theory and the research question of spanking and child development during the first five years of life.

The primary variables in the study include spanking, behavior problems, and cognitive skills. Spanking is measured by the mother’s report of her own spanking, including “never in the past month,” “once or twice,” “a few times this past month,” “a few times a week,” or “every day or nearly every day.” Child behavior problems were assessed by a subset of items from the externalizing and internalizing behavior problems subscales of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Child cognitive skills at ages 3 and 5 were assessed using the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Revised (PPVT-R).

We can conclude that the independent and dependent variables used in this study were able to appropriately match the research question about spanking and child development during the first five years of life. Spanking is a common practice that continues to manifest in the United States. However, debate still rages on whether it is the best form of discipline strategy or whether it is harmful to children. While the research was not particular, it is worth stating that it was able to use the conceptual framework based on ideas of various authors with the aim of resolving the issue of spanking in relation to child development during the first five years of life.

The measures used in the study were solely based on the mother’s report of her own spanking for a mother who did not have a co-resident partner or spouse. The measure is reliable as it originates from the focus of the study, where spanking has a bearing. It is the parents who play a great role in spanking, and the use of a mother can therefore be termed as effective for the research study. In the article, we highlighted that the authors employed a child behavior checklist (CBCL), which is a common measure that is used in such a study and which has turned out to be more effective and reliable (Achenbach & Rescorla, 2000). Through CBCL, the authors were able to examine behavior that is reported by the primary caregiver of the child. The question, however, that is missing is the role of the father has not come out clearly. In most cases, they are also involved in spanking and to a higher degree.

Research Design

The authors used a longitudinal birth cohort study of 4,898 children that were born between 1998 and 2000 in 20 United States cities, which was drawn from Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing (Non-experimental design). I feel that the design taken by the authors was not appropriate to address the research question. This is because, as observed by the authors, it resulted in a larger number of low-income children and Black or Hispanic children than would be the case in a nationally representative sample. The article was, therefore, not able to have a national outlook based on the research design that it employed in the study. The design remains consistent with the introduction and defense of the study because it illustrates how FFCW children are at a higher risk of both punitive parenting practices and adverse child outcomes. The design is able to examine spanking as a common practice among parents of young children, and this has been elaborated on in the introduction of the article.

There are threats to the internal validity of the outcome based on the article. There are various factors like fatigue, stress, and tiredness that might also affect the outcome of the study. Also, the data includes a substantial overrepresentation of single-parent and low-income families; the results will be most applicable to these family types and may not generalize to more advantaged families. The data rely on maternal reports for both parental spanking and child behavior problems. It is also important to note the impact of pre-testing, which might most likely impact the sensitivity and responsiveness to the study. As observed, the study focused on FFCW, an indication that it will be affected by the inclusion and exclusion criteria, meaning that a true picture will not be achieved. A better design for this study is using a national representative dataset with both parents reporting their sparking behavior. The cost for this study is low since it has no side effects on children, and the benefit of this study is that it can provide new evidence regarding links between spanking during early childhood and later adverse developmental outcomes for children.


The target population is children under or equal to the age of five. The population from which the sample was taken is debatable since it does not represent all the appropriate people that would have given the research a national outlook. The sampling technique this research used was a random cluster sample. The research limited its sample analysis to 3,870 families that were able to complete at least one in-home interview either in person or through the phone. Multiple imputation techniques where data are missing at random were also employed in this research. It is worth noting that there were issues with external validity, and this arose from the fact that the effect of the sampling was based on specific selection criteria, and this is viewed to be an impact on the final outcome of the study. The simple random sampling could have given a more effective analysis. The author did sample in a manner consistent with the information in the introduction.

Data Collection

The authors were able to use an interview approach to collect data from the participants. Interviews are considered effective because they can limit any form of misunderstanding and mistakes. Also, it is easier to correct mistakes during the one on one session with the participants. The other advantage that we have witnessed from the article is that it has been able to enhance a certain relationship between the authors and the participants. As a result, there was mutual understanding which was beneficial to the research outcome. It is also important to note that through the interviews, the researchers were able to collect primary information that was from the source rather than relying on information from other sources which is at times fabricated.

The interviews have their shortcomings, and from the article, we can see that it was time-consuming. It takes a lot of time to prepare for the interview, take the interviews and later interpret the data. Also, there was a high possibility that there were biases because the process could be influenced by what the researcher wanted to achieve. The interview process can also turn out to be a costly affair because it is always expensive in terms of time and resources. A better way to collect the data would be to send out online surveys.

Data Analysis

The research utilized descriptive statistics, which from the table shows age 1, age 3, and age 5. In the sampling process, we see that spanking was least common at age 1, at which time 30% of children were reported to have been spanked, peaked at 56% at age 3, and decreased slightly to 51% at age 5 (Maguire-Jack et al., 2012). The analysis was appropriate because it was able to reveal considerable differences between the children who were spanked and those that were not spanked in terms of child emotionality. From a closer look at the data, we can conclude that there was no data that was misused; hence the research was reliable. It is worth concluding that based on the analysis above, the techniques were able to effectively match and address the research question.


The results from the table in the article reveal the differences that exist in child behavior problems and child cognitive skills at ages 3 and 5. It concludes that children who were spanked at age 1 were highly likely to exhibit high levels of externalizing and internalizing behavior problems at ages 3 and 5. The raw data was able to reveal considerable differences existing between children who were and were not spanked in terms of child emotionality (at age 1) as well as a host of background characteristics (Maguire-Jack et al., 2012). The research also concluded that there was an association between spanking at age one and greater cognitive skills at age 5. The results answered the original questions for this study. Based on the study design, measures, data collection, and data analysis technique, I am confident the findings are accurate for children with a similar backgrounds.
Implications of the Findings

In conclusion, the authors found that the association between spanking at age one and greater externalizing behavior problems at age 5 operated fully through two indirect pathways: spanking at age three and behavior problems at age 3. That is, most children who were spanked at age 1 continued to be spanked as they aged, and spanking at age one was associated with greater externalizing behavior problems at age 3. Also, spanking at age one was indirectly linked to greater internalizing behavior problems at age 5 in that most children who were spanked at age 1 continued to be spanked as they aged. The authors did not over stat or understated anything, and these conclusions were appropriate.

The implications for this research is that the authors stated that the finding that spanking is associated with higher levels of future externalizing and internalizing behavior problems, net of earlier levels of behavior problems, suggests that parents’ use of spanking as a discipline strategy may adversely influence children’s behavioral development.

The results also suggest that the reciprocal and transactional nature of spanking and (particularly externalizing) behavior problems may potentially result in escalated problem behaviors rather than increased ongoing behavioral control on the part of the parent. The behavior problems results suggest that interventions that encourage parents who spank their children at young ages to discontinue this practice may help to diminish the likelihood that children will develop or continue to exhibit problem behaviors (Maguire-Jack, K et al. 2012).
The findings are significant to society and parents.

The authors suggest that parents should have alternative strategies for disciplining their children; practitioners may have the potential to better help parents control the problem behaviors that are likely to elicit spanking in the first place. It will be important for future studies to investigate how associations between spanking and child outcomes may vary by the context in which spanking occurs and, in particular, the extent to which spanking is normative or nonnormative in a given context, as such factors may mediate or moderate the associations revealed by the model.

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Spanking and Child Development during the First Five Years of Life. (2023, Mar 25). Retrieved from