Does Spanking Cause Lower IQ in Children?

by Sam Stinson

"He who withholds his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him diligently" (Proverbs 13:24).

I like to think that most scientific studies are not politically motivated. However, when I read about studies like the following, I'm forced to rethink this belief. A study recently presented by the International Conference on Violence, Abuse and Trauma alleges that parents who observe the practice of spanking their children actually do a disservice because spanking has the long-term effect of reducing the IQ of the child. As reported by the LA Times, "The relationship between spanking and intelligence is found in children around the world, said the lead author of the study, University of New Hampshire professor Murray Straus. Children in the United States who were spanked had lower IQs -- by 2.8 to 5 points -- than those who were not spanked, Straus found. Straus studied 806 children ages 2 to 4 and 704 ages 5 to 9. Both groups were retested four years later. How often parents spanked influenced IQ score. 'The more spanking, the slower the development of the child's mental ability,' Straus said in a news release. 'But even small amounts of spanking made a difference.'"

Let's consider the flaws in this experiment. First, intelligence varies from person to person and is not determined by any one factor. Second, associating physical punishment with a later quality of intelligence does not accurately represent other factors that influence intelligence such as education and training. Third, simply because someone who was spanked has a lower IQ does not necessarily imply that all those who are spanked have a lower IQ. It is important to note that following this presentation Straus went on to suggest that the United States enact laws that prohibit spanking.

Now, I'm not for needless violence, especially against those who are most defenseless. Those who abuse and beat their children under the guise of discipline are not following the Proverbs 13:24 mandate given above but are like Satan trying to be disguised in a garb of an angel of light. But prohibiting the practice of spanking for all based on its abuse by some does not necessarily follow. Some discipline of children involves putting them in time out, talking with them and giving verbal reprimands, and removing privileges or giving good privileges based on improved behavior. That being said, there is a time and place when physical contact is important in disciplining children else the word of God would not have mentioned it. Actions carry consequences. Physical contact is an experience that takes hold of a child's attention and if administered with love is one that child will not soon forget, especially if the lesson saves the child's life at a later time. Politically-motivated studies aside, isn't that a benefit we want for our children? Christian parent, please continue to judiciously discipline your child: "Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy" (Ecclesiastes 7:3).

Additional Note:

Straus has been caught repeatedly manipulating data and creating questionable studies in vain attempts to "prove" spanking is harmful. He isn't a reputable researcher. He is a fanatical opponent of spanking who sees the ends as justification for his means.

Jeffrey W. Hamilton

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