Discipline is one of the most challenging aspects of parenting, requiring a balance between severity and compassion. Corporal punishment, which involves the application of physical pain, was once the prevailing means of disciplining children, but research has called its efficacy into question. Corporal punishment can have a range of effects on children.
Children who were spanked are more likely to justify domestic abuse, according to one survey cited by the Boston Globe. Spanking may encourage violent means of problem-solving in children that endure until childhood. A New Zealand government study also found a link between corporal punishment and aggressive behavior in childhood, as well as delinquency in adolescence and adulthood.
Physical punishment may have a long-term, negative impact on mental and emotional health of children. Such punishment may encourage internalization of emotion and guilt, which can manifest itself in such mental health problems as anxiety and depression. One study linked corporal punishment with mental health effects as "an outcome of the suppression of childhood anger associated with being hit by adults who children depend on for love and nurturance."
Corporal punishment may also negatively affect a child's cognitive development. Verbal, rather than physical, punishment has been shown to be more cognitively stimulating. One Wisconsin study revealed a correlation between academic performance and corporal punishment, wherein children who were punished physically were less likely to perform well in school and more likely to have classroom disciplinary problems.
Children's relationships with their parents may be damaged by corporal punishment. Such punishment may encourage mistrust and hostility toward parents, effectively damaging other aspects of the parent-child relationship and breaking the bond of trust and love on which all such relationships are based.