A Heads Up To Those Wanting Smarter Children

Sometimes you do things to make them stupid:

Recent research from discipline and domestic violence expert Murray Straus, a professor of sociology and co-director of the Family Research Laboratory at the University of New Hampshire

The results of a survey of more than 17,000 university students from 32 countries “show that the higher the percent of parents who used corporal punishment, the lower the national average IQ,” Straus wrote in his presentation.

In looking at spanking just in the United States, Straus and a fellow researcher reviewed data on IQ scores from 806 children between 2 and 4 years old and another 704 kids aged 5 to 9.

When their IQs were tested again four years later, children in the younger group who were not spanked scored five points higher, on average, than did children who had been spanked. In the group of older children, spanking resulted in an average loss of 2.8 points.

“How often parents spanked made a difference,” Straus said in a news release from the university. “The more spanking, the slower the development of the child’s mental ability. But even small amounts of spanking made a difference.”

Sometimes it’s self confidence:

A new study of thousands of twins suggests that intellectual confidence is genetically inherited, and independent from actual intelligence.

Moreover, these genetic differences predict grades in school, says Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, a psychologist at Goldsmiths University in London, whose team found that 7- to 10-year-old children who achieved the best marks in school tended to rate their own abilities highly, even after accounting for differences due to intelligence and environment.

Most of these researchers assumed that environmental factors – the influence of parents, teachers and friends – explained why some students think more of their abilities than others.

That’s only partially true, says Chamorro-Premuzic. About half of differences in children’s self-perceived abilities can be explained by environment. The other half seems to be genetic. For comparison, genes can explain about 80 per cent of the differences in height.

Sometimes it’s down to genes:

Chun-Yen Chang, an education researcher at National Taiwan Normal University in Taipei led this study

Taiwanese teens with a particular mutation in a gene called COMT scored significantly lower on a national placement exam, compared with students who had other versions of this gene.


Alternatively, the results could be a statistical fluke, resulting from a small sample. “This is very common among these kinds of studies because the genetic effects on cognition are so tiny that you need perhaps thousands of people to get a good estimate of the effect,” she says.


  1. RCB said,

    December 21, 2009 at 3:33 am

    The Straus Report was not peer reviewed and is flawed . See Are Spanked Kids Really Dumb Kids ? – http://www.expertclick.com/NewsReleaseWire/Are_Spanked_Kids_Really_Dumb_Kids,200928828.aspx .

    • December 21, 2009 at 7:28 pm

      Thank You RCB,

      Accurate and timely information is always appreciated.

      I will admit my bias: I think that 99% of the time spanking is not useful to either the parent or the child. The other 1% of the time, I call “emergency spanking”. A perfect example is the parent who has repeatedly explained to a toddler that they should not go into the street because of the cars. And the child, having a limited attention span, soon forgets and wanders toward the street with a car coming.

      While I don’t find punctuating the “no street” lesson with a smack on the bum exactly useful, it does emphasize the severity of the situation in a clear and direct way.

      On the whole I tend to agree with the prevalent Native American attitude that for the most part spanking is unnecessary and is generally used by people who can’t control themselves. Of course, my mother used spanking sparingly and stopped completely around the age of 5. That is when it became evident to her that I could understand complex ideas well enough to make the link between a sometimes delayed discipline and an incorrect action on my part.

      Now, obviously I am making no claims that any one technique is right for every family. And to some degree the fact there is Native American heritage from both maternal and paternal parentage may play a part in the my parent’s choices in discipline.

      In a perfect world we would all refrain from hitting. But I am realistic enough to know that it will happen and sometimes creates the desired results.

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