Journalist Sanjena Sathian in a July 2 article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Study points to downside of spanking children” quotes SMU psychologist George W. Holden about the controversial practice of corporal punishment.

Holden, an expert in families and child development, is a founding member of the U.S. Alliance to End the Hitting of Children, at

Most recently he’s done research that provides a unique real-time look at spanking in a way that’s never before been studied. In a study of 37 families, mothers voluntarily recorded their evening interactions with their young children over the course of six days, including incidents of corporal punishment.

A professor in the SMU Psychology Department, Holden is a leading advocate for abolishing corporal punishment in schools and homes and led organization of the 2011 Global Summit on Ending Corporal Punishment and Promoting Positive Discipline in Dallas.

For his outstanding dedication and service to the mental health needs of children and adolescents, Holden was honored Sept. 21, 2011 with The Lightner Sams Foundation Child Advocate Award presented by Mental Health America of Greater Dallas.

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By Sanjena Sathian
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Parents today receive differing advice about how to raise their children. But one piece of wisdom is increasingly consistent: Spanking is almost never the right way to discipline your child, according to doctors and most child development experts.

When Jennifer Chianese, a pediatrician at Children’s Community Pediatrics who practices in Cranberry and Squirrel Hill, advises parents not to spank, she tells them it is ineffective and can have negative psychological consequences.

And those effects can be long term: According to a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, adults who were spanked as children are more likely to develop mental disorders, including depression and substance abuse problems.

“There’s still a socially accepted belief that … you should use physical force and shouldn’t be too ‘lenient’ on your children,” said Tracie Afifi, an epidemiologist at the University of Manitoba in Canada and lead author of the study. Though 32 countries have abolished a parent’s right to use physical punishment, it is still legal to hit children in the United States and Canada, the study shows.


[…] And effects of spanking can show up even earlier. George Holden, a vocal anti-spanking advocate and professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, said children who are spanked are more likely to bully their peers.

Even the threat of spanking might be harmful, said Deborah Gilboa, a mother of four and a physician at Squirrel Hill Health Center.

“Living with fear has negative consequences. We know that kids can grow up to be adults with PTSD if they live with true fear,” she said, referring to post-traumatic stress syndrome. She added that joking about punishment is fine — as long as there is no true intent to hit children.

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