UT Study Finds That Harsh Punishment Leads To Antisocial Behavior

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A new study conducted by a professor at the University of Texas is based on harsh punishment and its effects on kids’ antisocial behavior. The study looked at twins who had been disciplined differently in their childhoods to answer how yelling and physical punishment affected behavior.

The study examined the common debate over whether or not spanking has an influence on a child’s behavior and the argument that genetics must also play a role, adding that parents using aggressive punishment could be ‘passing down’ an aggressive gene. 

So researchers at Michigan State University, the University of Michigan, and UT Austin studied 1,030 sets of twins, including 426 pairs of genetically identical twins, ages  6–10 years old.

Elizabeth Gershoff, author of the study and professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, says harsh punishment has a direct line to more, not fewer, behavior problems in children.

“Studies into the effects of physical punishment have led the American Academy of Pediatrics to recommend against physical punishment and numerous countries to ban physical punishment including spanking,” Gershoff said.

The researchers found that families who punished one twin differently than the other, lead to different behavior consequences. When parents aggressively punished one twin sibling but not the other, there was a noticeable increase in delinquency and physical aggression for the child, according to the study.

What about the association between harsh parenting and children’s antisocial behavior?

The study found that the twin experiencing harsher parenting exhibited more antisocial behavior. Lead author Alexandra Burt, a professor of psychology at Michigan State University says that since twins share 100% of their genes, any differences between them must be environmental in origin.

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