Say Goodbye to the Slipper: Smacking Children can Affect Brain Development

A new study found that if you’re trying to enforce discipline and good behaviour on your children, smacking and taking out the slipper is not the way to do so.

Many parents around the globe will argue over whether smacking a child is an effective way of teaching the consequences of bad decisions.

However, the study found that smacking young children can affect brain development.

So, if you want your child to excel properly in life and have a bright future (which we all should), you may want to think twice about using your hands, or anything else, to maintain good behaviour.

The study into smacking…

Researchers at Harvard University looked at the brains of 147 children aged 10 and 11 to see how corporal punishment would impact them.

Each child was shown images of different actors making ‘fearful’ or ‘neutral’ faces while a scanner mapped their brain activity. This test was designed to see whether the child’s brain reacted to the faces in different ways, in the hope it would be able to weed out who was smacked and who wasn’t.

The scientists found smacked children had greater neural activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is an area of the brain that usually responds to threat cues.

The Harvard researchers have published their findings in the Society for Research in Child Development Journal and highlighted how smacking has been linked to mental health issues like anxiety and depression, as well as behavioural problems and substance abuse disorders.


Professor Katie A McLaughlin is the senior researcher on the study.

McLaughlin said, “We know that children whose families use corporal punishment are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, behaviour problems and other mental health problems, but many people don’t think about spanking as a form of violence.”

However, researchers at Harvard admitted that smacking doesn’t impact every child in the same way.

Say Goodbye to the Slipper: Smacking Children can Affect Brain Development
Say Goodbye to the Slipper: Smacking Children can Affect Brain Development

NSPCC said it would be best if parents avoided the act altogether

There is clear evidence that physical punishment damages children’s well-being and is linked to poorer outcomes in childhood and adulthood

We would encourage parents to use alternative methods to teach their children the differences between right and wrong, with a positive parenting approach such as setting clear and consistent boundaries.


Although smacking is still legal in 130 countries, Scotland have outlawed it and parts of the UK only permits smacking if it comes under ‘reasonable punishment’.

So, what do you think?

Is smacking something you think is necessary to discipline a child? Or, do you think there are other methods…

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