According to a study led by Professor Marjorie Gunhoe of Calvin College, children who are physically disciplined between the ages of two and six end up being more successful and well-adjusted than peers who had never been "smacked."
Gunhoe's study, which took the lives of 2,600 subjects into account, including "detailed interviews with 179 teenagers" determined that children who were disciplined before the age of six tended to do better academically and have more "optimism about the future" than those who were not disciplined during the same developmental period. However, children who were physically disciplined between the ages of seven and eleven were still more likely to be academically more successful, though they showed more negative behavioral traits.
Gunhoe argues that her research proves that parents should not be banned from physically disciplining their children: "The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data. I think of spanking as a dangerous tool, but there are times when there is a job big enough for a dangerous tool. You just don't use it for all your jobs." Debates are currently raging in the comment sections of both the Times of London and Daily Mail pieces on the study, as readers attempt to defend or dismantle Gunhoe's work, and, perhaps most interestingly, attempt to clarify the difference between a "smack" and physical abuse.
It's not entirely surprising, I suppose, that Gunhoe's study is already kicking up a great deal of debate: as the Daily Mail notes, "in a recent poll, more than 70% of Britons said they would support children's charities in imposing a ban on hitting of any kind as a form of discipline," and one imagines it will be hard to convince parents who do not agree with physically disciplining their their children to change their minds, no matter what the statistics might say, as evidenced by a comment by British "parenting guru" Penelope Leach, who tells Georgia Warren of the Times of London, "I do not buy this idea that children will learn positive behaviour from being smacked. The law says adults hitting adults is wrong and children should be protected in the same way. Children are people, too."