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 By Carolyn Woodruff, North Carolina Family Law Specialist, JD, CPA, CVA

In North Carolina, should your parenting agreement contain a provision regarding spanking? A hot topic, and sometimes explosive in a “spare the rod, and spoil the child” mentality. So what does the research say?

Finally, we may have the definitive answer regarding spanking. A new research study looks at the negative effects, both short-term and long-term of spanking children. The study can be found in the December 2018 issue of the magazine Pediatrics. The American Academy of Pediatrics now takes the position that spanking as a form of discipline is “not only completely counter-productive, it may be potentially damaging.” The study “found that spanking fails to improve negative behavior in young children. Instead, it leads to increased aggression in the long run. Corporal punishment may also affect normal brain development by elevating stress hormones.”

Spanking in North Carolina is legal, provided that the spanking does not leave any mark on the child.

In the study, toddlers spanked at age three experienced increased levels of aggression by age five with higher levels of externalizing behaviors and lower receptive vocabulary scores when evaluated four years later.

The study by the American Academy of Pediatrics also warned against verbal punishment with humiliation, threats, and shaming since these can also spur aggression and negative behaviors.

Parents should focus on healthy, age-appropriate forms of discipline. Ask your pediatrician for acceptable forms of discipline for the age of your child. Discipline may change as the child grows older. I would suggest that if you have the pediatrician’s recommendation for a discipline plan, for the parenting agreement.