Straus et al1 purport that corporal punishment (CP) is correlated with long-term increases in antisocial behavior among children. This highly publicized article is riddled with methodological and statistical flaws that cast light more on the long-established biases of Dr Straus and colleagues than on CP's use in discipline.
While the study controls for demographic and socioeconomic variables, baseline level of antisocial behavior, maternal warmth, and cognitive stimulation, it fails to consider several equally germane factors, including school setting, presence of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and family dynamics. The utter lack of evaluation of paternal involvement raises serious concerns about the validity of this study. As fathers (when present) generally are the primary disciplinarians, the study's absence of assessment of fathers begs key questions. Are maternal spanking and child antisocial behavior both correlated with the presence of single-mother homes? As CP's use and effects may vary on boys and girls, does the effect of CP vary with whether it is delivered by the mother or father? Do poor (and possibly violent) mother-father relationships translate into both maternal spanking of children and increased child antisocial behavior?
Ambati BK, Ambati J, Rao AM. Corporal Punishment and Antisocial Behavior. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1998;152(3):303. doi:10.1001/archpedi.152.3.303