Crying Child
Spanking, a common method of punishment adopted by parents to teach good behavior to their little ones, may bring more harm than good.Creative Donkey/Flickr

Contrary to the well known saying, "Spare the rod and spoil the child," a new study has found that spanking, a common method of punishment adopted by parents to teach good behavior to their little ones, may bring more harm than good.

The study published today in the journal Pediatrics found that children who were spanked at age five, were at greater risk of becoming aggressive in school.

Strict parenting and harsh punishment during childhood have been topics of controversy for a long time. Countless studies in the past have shown the long-term risks of hitting or shoving a child- including mental or personality disorders, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis and obesity.

In the new study, Michael J. MacKenzie from the Columbia School of Social Work in the US and colleagues looked at nearly 1,900 children born between 1998 and 2000. To collect information about the prevalence of spanking, the researchers interviewed the parents of children aged three and five.

It was found that spanking was more prevalent at age three than age five. Fathers and mothers reported spanking their children at age three (57 percent, 40 percent respectively) and five (52 percent and 33 percent respectively).

At age nine, the children gave vocabulary tests and parents provided information about their children's behavioral problems. Researchers found that spanking at age five, contributed to problem in behavior at age nine. Apart from that, children who were regularly spanked by their fathers at age five, performed worse on vocabulary tests- nearly four points lower in scores than children who were not spanked, Reuters Health reported.

However, experts dismissed the theory that lower score in vocabulary may be caused entirely by spanking. "I don't think that spanking makes kids stupider," Elizabeth Gershoff, who studies parental discipline and its effects at the University of Texas at Austin, told Reuters.

She added that lack of proper communication between the children and parents may be leading to this occurrence. "There's just no evidence that spanking is good for kids," she said. Gershoff , was not involved in the study.

On the other hand, children who are spanked are more likely to use the same method while dealing with other children. "Spanking models aggression as a way of solving problems, that you can hit people and get what you want," Gershoff, explained.  "When (children) want another kid's toy, the parents haven't taught them how to use their words or how to negotiate."