Parent Resource

Child Discipline: Spanking & Brain Chemistry

by Dr. Samantha C. Sweeney, Ph.D., School Psychologist,

Child discipline is an important and, sometimes, controversial topic. Many people have very strong feelings about their family’s approach to developing and maintaining a child’s behavior. What I hope this post does is take some of the emotion out of the discussion and help us stick to research and science. The research increasingly shows that there are a lack of positive outcomes for children who are disciplined physically.

There appears to be evidence that spanking actually alters a child’s brain chemistry in negative ways. Spanking-especially when it is harsh, as well as other forms of corporal punishment-may effect a child’s prefrontal cortex, which is the area of the brain that contributes to planning, memory, organization, and motivational behaviors. As one might imagine, these skills are absolutely essential to success in school and life in general. Lower grey matter in this area may be linked to depression, executive functioning difficulties, and even IQ.

Check out the article from and leave comments. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Additionally, if you find that you need support coming up with effective alternative ways to discipline your child, contact me, another psychologist, or a behaviorist. Child rearing is difficult and seeking support in any area is not only good for your child, but good for you as a parent and as a person. Enjoy!