Researchers have uncovered another damaging consequence of spanking: risky sexual behaviors, or even sexual deviancy, when the child grows up.
"This adds one more harmful side effect to spanking," said Murray Straus, a spanking expert who was expected to present the findings of four studies at the American Psychological Association's Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships in Bethesda, Md., on Thursday.
"I think that it's pretty powerful," said Elizabeth Gershoff, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan's School of Social Work. "It's across several studies and across different forms of either risky or deviant sexual behavior."
A meta-analysis of spanking studies conducted by Gershoff found 93 percent agreement among studies that spanking can lead to such problems as delinquent and anti-social behavior in childhood along with aggression, criminal and anti-social behavior and spousal or child abuse as an adult.
"There's probably nothing else in child development that has 93 percent agreement in results," Straus said.
Having said that, I found the tone a tad bit off-putting.
The review being presented at the meeting are the first to look at the relationship of spanking to sexual behavior.
They found that spanking and other corporal punishment is associated with an increased probability of verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex; risky sex such as premarital sex without using a condom; and masochistic sex such as spanking during sex.
There is a "dose response" at work here. "The more parents spank, the higher the probability of harmful side effects," Straus noted.
Of course, there's a similar dose response for smokers. But if someone reaches the age of 65 without developing lung cancer, it doesn't mean that smoking isn't harmful. It means the person was one of the lucky ones.
It's the same with spanking, Straus said. "If a person says, 'I was spanked, and I don't have any interest in bondage and discipline sex, that's correct, but it's not because spanking is OK, it's because they're one of the lucky ones."