If certain omitted variables are correlated with both, we may confound the two effects, that is, inappropriately attribute an effect to spanking.
For example, parents who spank their children may be weaker parents overall, and spanking is simply one way in which this difference in parenting quality manifests itself.
Studies dating back to the early 1960s suggest a relationship between corporal punishment and decreased cognitive ability in early childhood.
Recent research has added support to these findings.
Emerging evidence suggests that non-cognitive skills may also be affected.
In an experimental study, Talwar, Carlson, and Lee (2011) tested whether attendance in a punitive versus non-punitive school environment had any effect on West African children’s executive functioning (EF) skills.[iii] They measured children’s abilities using three EF tasks: delay of gratification; gift delay; and dimensional change card sort.
So: are parents who spank their children different on other dimensions of parenting?
Children whose parents hit them regularly may also develop more distant parent-child relationships later on.
There are two designated items for corporal punishment.
One self-reported item indicates how many times, if any, the mother hit her child during the previous week.
As in our previous Parenting Gap research, we employ the HOME-SF scale as our proxy for parenting quality, but limit our sample to children who were ages 3 to 5 in 1986, one of the survey’s largest cohorts, and for whom the HOME-SF scale information is available.
The HOME-SF scale for children aged 3 to 5 includes 26 items—each its own proxy for “good” parenting.