Cultural Symptoms: Spanking and Lower IQs

Irregular IQ Cube

A research study titled “Corporal Punishment by Mothers and Development of Children’s Cognitive Ability: A Longitudinal Study of Two Nationally Representative Age Cohorts” by Professor Murray Straus from the University of New Hampshire targets the relationship between children who are spanked and lower IQs as noted at ScienceDaily. It was presented at the 14th International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma, in San Diego, Calif. Here is an excerpt from the ScienceDaily post:

Graph by Professor Murray Straus

IQ and Spanking in America

Straus found that children in the United States who were spanked had lower IQs four years later than those who were not spanked.

Straus and Mallie Paschall, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, studied nationally representative samples of 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. Both groups were retested four years later.

IQs of children ages 2 to 4 who were not spanked were 5 points higher four years later than the IQs of those who were spanked. The IQs of children ages 5 to 9 years old who were not spanked were 2.8 points higher four years later than the IQs of children the same age who were spanked.

“How often parents spanked made a difference. The more spanking the, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference,” Straus says.

I have noted other research on spanking in a previous post “Cultural Symptoms: 100 Years of Research and Spanking Is Still Not The Way.” The use of spanking to discipline a child not only calls into question the use of spanking, but dismisses it outright in studies like these. Discipline should be consequence based and relative and equitable to the offense the child is committing, but violence is never an option. This means if a child is acting out, having a tantrum, spanking them is not appropriate or effective, nor will it produce the desired result. What can achieve the desired result is to remove the child and/or yourself from a situation that is causing them or you undue stress and/or anxiety. The act of hitting a child only serves to teach them that violence is the natural recourse for acting out. This approach of spanking a child to instill discipline only breeds more violence and obliterates the boundaries that need to be in place to help him or her understand that using physical force as a way of resolving conflict is not the way.

We recognize how challenging children can be and that the use of physical disciplinary techniques such as spanking still seems like the only recourse you have to stop your child from acting out. We continue to hear parents and other adults say that they were spanked as children and how we have gotten to soft when it comes to disciplining children, which according to them is why so many kids are acting out and getting in trouble. The feeling seems to be that today’s children are more spoiled then previous generations. I would argue that the existence of domestic violence and violence in our culture as a whole would counter this argument. Violence has to start somewhere and doesn’t it make sense that the use of physical force to correct the behaviors of a child is in fact where it does.

I think that more than video games, television shows and films, children learn to be violent in their homes with their parents, on the streets and playgrounds, and at schools with their peers. I noted this thinking in another post “Video Games: It’s the Challenge not the Gore.” How this relates to IQ adds another dimension to how physical punishment affects our cognitive abilities. If we view the ability to use our intellect as related to our security and sense of comfort where we feel valued because we are seen, heard and understood then we can better make the connections to how spanking causes irreparable harm on multiple levels. If you think a hand or fist is coming at you at anytime or place as a child this sense of punishment stays with you throughout your lifetime and then translates to how you associate this act to being in relationships with others and being a parent to your own children.

Violence is then associated with love and value to a degree that you cannot trust others or yourself. Trusting others and yourself is fundamental to being open enough to let others and information in in order to learn. The act of spanking, therefore, closes us up, shuts us down, and we are forever spending our precious energy and intellect trying to not get hurt again or hurt others because we think and feel this is what we are supposed to do and how we can act in the world and toward others. We should all know by now that there is another way.

(See the Irregular IQ Cube and more at

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