Later On

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Spanking kids and their later sexual problems

with 4 comments


Children who are spanked or victims of other corporal punishment are more likely to have sexual problems as a teen or adult, according to new research presented today by Murray Straus, co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire.

Widely considered the foremost researcher in his field, Straus presented his new research findings at the American Psychological Association’s Summit on Violence and Abuse in Relationships: Connecting Agendas and Forging New Directions held Feb. 28 and 29 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Bethesda, MD.

Straus analyzed the results of four studies and found that spanking and other corporal punishment by parents is associated with an increased probability of three sexual problems as a teen or adult:

  • Verbally and physically coercing a dating partner to have sex.
  • Risky sex such as premarital sex without a condom.
  • Masochistic sex such as being aroused by being spanked when having sex.

“These results, together with the results of more than 100 other studies, suggest that spanking is one of the roots of relationship violence and mental health problems. Because there is 93 percent agreement between studies that investigated harmful side effects of spanking, and because over 90 percent of U.S. parents spank toddlers, the potential benefits for prevention of sexual and relationship violence is large,” Straus says.

“Furthermore, …

because other research shows spanking is not more effective than other discipline methods, there is no need to expose children to the harmful effects of spanking. We can help prevent mental health problems and relationship violence from happening by a national health policy recommending never spanking,” he says.

Coerced Sex
A survey of more than 14,000 university students in 32 nations found that 29 percent of the male and 21 percent of the female students had verbally coerced sex from another person. Coerced sex involves insisting on sex when the partner does not want to, or threatening to end the relationship if the partner does not have sex.

The percentages of those who physically forced sex were much lower: 1.7 percent of the men and 1.2 percent of the women said they had used physical force, such as holding down the partner or hitting a partner to make them have sex.

“The most important finding of this study is that each increase of one step on a four-step measure of corporal punishment was associated with a 10 percent increase in the probability of verbal sexual coercion by men and a 12 percent increase in sexual coercion by women,” Straus says. “The relation of corporal punishment to physically forcing sex was even stronger. Each increase of one step in corporal punishment was associated with a 33 percent increase in the probability of men forcing sex and a 27 percent increase in the probability of women doing this.”

Risky Sex
In the second study, Straus analyzed the same sample of university students, but focused on whether they had insisted on sex without using a condom. Straus found that 15 percent of the men and 13 percent of the women had insisted on sex without a condom at least once in the past year.

Using the four-step corporal punishment scale, Straus found that of the group with the lowest score on the corporal punishment scale, 12.5 percent had insisted on unprotected sex. In contrast, 25 percent of students in the highest corporal punishment group engaged in this type of risky sex.

The third study analyzed data on 440 students in a New Hampshire high school. The students were divided into five groups, ranging from those who were never spanked to those whose parents used corporal punishment even when they were 13 years old and older. The study evaluated eight indicators of risky sex, such as more than one sex partner.

Straus found that students who had experienced corporal punishment had engaged in more risky sexual behavior than students who had not been spanked. From this study, Straus concludes that corporal punishment weakens the bond between the child and the parents. He believes that this alienation from parents may make teenagers less likely to avoid sex and less likely to follow safe sex practices.

Masochistic Sex
In the fourth study, Straus asked 207 students at three colleges about whether they had ever been sexually aroused by masochistic sex: imagining that they were being tied up when having sex, engaging in rough sex, or by spanking, and if they had been sexually aroused by actually doing these three things.

“The core idea of this study is that being spanked by loving parents confuses love with violence, which increases the probability that violence will be part of making love,” Straus says.

The study found that 75 percent of students who had been spanked a lot by their parents were sexually aroused by masochistic sex. In contrast, 40 percent of students who had never been spanked were interested in masochistic sex.

“What is new about this study is a scientific test of the idea that being spanked as a child inclines people to want to be spanked when having sex, and that this is especially likely to be true when there is a combination of lots of spanking and lots of love,” Straus says.

Reducing Spanking
To reduce the use of corporal punishment, Straus recommends that the American Psychological Association, the U.S. Children’s Bureau, and other organizations publicize a recommendation that parents should never spank.

“However, to make this work, we need to start by informing professionals who advise parents about the evidence-base for that policy. They need this information to be able to give appropriate information and help to parents about replacing spanking with positive discipline to correct misbehavior,” he says.

Written by Leisureguy

29 February 2008 at 11:51 am

Posted in Daily life, Mental Health, Science

Tagged with ,

4 Responses

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  1. Very interesting, and I’m generally opposed to spanking, but there are a few things that make me skeptical about it. First, parents who spank probably have a ton of differences with parents who don’t — so to blame this on spanking may be missing the “active ingredient.” Second, “Masochistic sex such as being aroused by being spanked when having sex” is considered a “sexual problem??” It’s an interesting correlation, to be sure, but hardly something we need to worry about preventing.



    29 February 2008 at 12:05 pm

  2. I’m heartbroken by Straus’ presentation earlier this year. I think he’s a great scholar on the impact of all sorts of domestic violence issues, especially the notion of hitting kids to stop them from hitting! He has many compelling points, and is still a hero for many of us working on domestic violence issues.

    But, damn, Murray, you really didn’t do your emancipatory homework on sexual expression when it comes to BDSM (Bondage-Discipline, Dominance-Submission, Sadism-Masochism) communities, or, for that sake, the closeted kinky people who are reading USA today! In your own 2001 study, which I presume you’re basing your findings on, over 60% of the college population admits to some form of ‘masochistic’ sex. Does a pathology exist if it is found in over half of your population? Please.

    What DOES exist is a lingering stigmatization of the eroticization of power during consensual, adult intimate exchange (i.e., BDSM sexual identity), furthered by your, frankly, weak and ill-researched knowledge of the burgeoning body of research on kink (see Sadomadochism: Powerful Pleasures, 2006; and Safe, Sane and Consensual, 2007).

    If we’re really going to do anything to stop the epidemic of domestic violence, we need to be clear on our terms. Lambasting kink should not be part of it. This is an old, un-empirical conjecture indicative of unscientific, psychoanalytic thought that brought you such great hits as “penis envy”, “homosexual disturbance” and “insanity due to ejaculation outside the vagina”. What millennium are we in?

    The fact that the media’s summation of the February presentation–with its nexus of furthering the stigmatization of BDSM identity–has now been broadcast across USA Today, Science Blog, and other important avenues. This shows how little we have come in articulating safe, sane, and consensual sex amongst adults. I can only wonder what this means for the people suffering under real domestic power inequalities; we have obfuscated to the point of the profane.


    Christpher Reeves

    8 August 2008 at 1:17 am

  3. There are some really good points about the effect of spanking on one’s sex life, am concerned though: in this research is Murray Straus trying to discredit the bible? The bible states don’t spare the rod and spoil the child. What we should start question the best book of morality to some mediocre research. I admit the points are good but using his own statistics only 1.7% physically coerced their partners into sex to the what 29% who verbally did this. 14,000 university students, come on. Let me say when more work as been done I’ll consider the possibility, but so far the bible as never gone wrong. If you speak to the extent of the spanking then myself and others will support, but not spanking in general. THE EXTENT OF SPANKING, EXTENT.


    Rennae Reynolds

    17 November 2009 at 1:25 pm

  4. Spare the rod and spoil the child is (in Christian terms) the Old Testament, and I believe Jesus specifically stated that he came to bring a new approach based on love.

    In fact, if you look through the Old Testament, you’ll find all sorts of things forbidden with the death penalty for disobedience:

    Exodus 35:2. “2 For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day shall be your holy day, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD . Whoever does any work on it must be put to death.”

    And Leviticus 19:19 states that you cannot wear clothing made of two kinds of fiber (e.g., cotton/polyester blend). Do you seriously believe that this is forbidden by God?



    17 November 2009 at 1:44 pm

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