Discovery of Sexual Side Effects of Spanking Won’t Change Minds

Psychiatry_Psychology.jpgThere’s something undiscriminating about change. Regardless of age, social status, education, or upbringing, most people’s first reaction to change is usually one of resistance. It doesn’t seem to matter if the change is positive or even if the change is backed up by substantial evidence, it takes a while before we are willing to fully embrace it.

This train of thought started when I heard about Murray Straus’ most recent findings. Straus’ area of expertise is spanking. Over the years numerous studies have come out showing the dangers of spanking or other methods of corporal punishment. From a greater chance of having depression to slower rates of mental growth to increased aggression, there’s no shortage of evidence backing up the belief that corporal punishment is a harmful method of discipline.

Straus recently presented even more evidence against corporal punishment from a study that is the first to show a correlation between sexual behaviour and corporal punishment. He found that adults who were spanked (or experienced other forms of corporal punishment) have,

an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex.

Let’s consider for a second that Straus’ collective body of research is the most substantial and most valid of corporal punishment research available. Would this new information convince those die-hard spankers to change their beliefs? Now that the list of negatives associated with spanking has grown, will the number of people who spank, shrink?

I wish I could answer that question but I can’t; there are many theories regarding people and change. But I believe that this topic highlights just how complicated the human mind is. After all, on the surface it seems as if the issue of spanking would be a done deal. After all, parents don’t want their children to have all the problems that corporal punishment seems to cause; yet a huge percentage of people still spank their children. There seems to be a disconnect.

Therein lies the problem inherent throughout society. When new research or theories provide insights that will improve efficiency or motivation or marital happiness, etc. it doesn’t mean too much. Not at first. Because people must buy into this new information. They must buy into it enough so that they become willing to accept change. Therefore, the ability to create change is quite powerful.

In the end, I appreciate the work of Straus and his colleagues. Unfortunately, I know that their information is just the first step. Now the real work begins. How do you convince people that spanking isn’t a good method of discipline –- ever? If someone has the answer, let me know; I know a number of people who will insist, in spite of Straus’ discovery, that a little spanking never hurt anyone.


Straus, Murray A. (Powerpoint Presentation) Spanking By Parents: The Primordial Violence and Its Effects on Children. Soc 695 Family Violence Research In World Perspective.

Gardner, Amanda. Spanking Raises Chances of Risky, Deviant Sexual Behavior. U.S. News and World Report. 2008.

J. R. White

J. R. White is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin. She has over five years of experience in education and pedagogy.
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