Many U.S. parents admit to spanking their children despite considerable research showing spanking is related to children's greater aggression, depression, a drop in IQ points and negative behavior.
Shawna Lee and Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, social work professors at the University of Michigan, said the previous research focused on disciplining children as young as age 3, but the latest findings showed spanking was used on children who were so young that, in some cases, they haven't even taken their first step.
The researchers examined 2,788 families who participated in a longitudinal study of new births in urban areas. The study indicated spanking by the child's mother, father or mother's current partner when the child was age 1 was linked to child protective services' involvement between ages 1 and 5. During that time, 10 percent of the families received at least one visit by child protective services.
The researchers said spanking babies was particularly misguided and potentially harmful, and might set off a cascade of inappropriate parental behavior. The research is a snapshot of a larger problem: Many people lack parenting skills that include alternatives to spanking, the research team said.
"Intervention to reduce or eliminate spanking has the potential to contribute to the well-being of families and children who are at-risk of becoming involved with the [social services] system," Lee said in a statement.
The study, published in Child Abuse & Neglect, was also co-authored by Lawrence Berger of the University of Wisconsin.