Furthest Right

Daily bad science: Spanking

They love to hit you with that statistical bad science, because it keeps you from looking for causes:

Spanking can get kids to behave in a hurry, but new research suggests it can do more harm than good to their noggins. The study, involving hundreds of U.S. children, showed the more a child was spanked the lower his or her IQ compared with others.

One might ask, however, whether children who are spanked tend to come from backgrounds in which education opportunities are less or inherited intelligence lower.

Straus and his colleague Mallie Paschall of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Maryland studied nationally representative samples of two age groups: 806 children ages 2 to 4, and 704 ages 5 to 9. The researchers tested the kids’ IQs initially and then four years later.

Both groups of kids got smarter after four years. But the 2- to 4-year-olds who were spanked scored 5 points lower on the IQ test than those not spanked. For children ages 5 to 9, the spanked ones scored on average 2.8 points lower than their unspanked counterparts.


Like most modern “data,” the study is flawed because it measures effects, not causes. Parents who spank their children a lot tend to be the dumber ones, these days. That wasn’t always so. Most of history’s great geniuses were spanked. What does that tell you about this “study”?

Furthermore, the dummy in charge claims that he corrected “statistically” for socioeconomic status, yet doesn’t tell us how — did he actually measure this value, or just assign a coefficient? The usual bad thinking abounds.

The other lurking factor in the room is that most well-balanced parents will have nothing to do with this study, so he’s left with the people he can con into getting their kids IQ tested twice for $50 in bonus money.

That we tolerate such bad science is one reason our society is in decline. The head dummy of this study should be confined to washing test tubes, but because he got in the headlines and lots of dummies nodded knowingly and approved, he’s now one of our “better” researchers.

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