JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - Spanking children is controversial, but a common form of discipline that Region 8 News investigated.
To spank your kids or not to spank, psychologists hear that question too often.
"It's a huge question I get all the time," said Rebekah Evans, a clinical psychologist at Mid-South Health Systems.
Two-thirds of parents spank their children as a means of discipline, which Evans said is quite common in the South.
"We're talking together about hitting a child on the bottom with an opened hand to try to change or modify their behavior," she said.
However, for many parents, it is more than just an open hand that gets their children's attention.
"I used my hand or a wooden spoon," said Jody Brashears, a Region 8 mother of three.
That doesn't shock Evans because it is so common. However, she does want parents to be aware of the impact spanking can have on children.
"There was a research article that came out last year in the Journal of Family Psychology," Evans said. "They looked at 50 years of spanking research, over 160,000 kids. What they found was spanking can have really harmful long-term effects."
She said people who have been spanked have more mental health problems and anti-social behaviors.
"Most children find it shaming, troubling, and increases anger rather than calms them down and helps them learn," Evans said. "The thing that I think is important for parents to know is that spanking doesn't do what we want it to do. It doesn't improve compliance or rule following in the short term and it doesn't improve it in the long term."
Evans said many parents who spank were spanked when they were children.
"I think one thing that we have learned from research when children are spanked, they themselves become more likely to spank when they are parents," Evans said.
That includes Brashears, who said her parents spanked her as a child.
Evans called it a pattern of behavior.
"What is the pattern of behavior? Well, it's a pattern of physical violence," she said.
However, Brashears had a hard time agreeing with research, claiming there is certainly a fine line between spanking and physical violence/abuse.
"Have I whispered to my kids, "If you don't stop you're going to get it?" Yes, I have. I've done it in the store. I've smacked their behinds in the store," Brashears said.
Brashears said throughout her kids' childhood, spanking worked. It was effective.
"You get these looks from people like I'm abusing them," Brashears said. "But they straighten up."
She used a wooden spoon and her hand to spank, while never leaving bruises or marks. She also said her children have never shown signs of distress or anger.
"My kids have never been in trouble," she said. "They've never hit. They respect others. So, I just don't know where that comes from."
Evans cited more research and data that may be a hard pill to swallow for some parents.
"The researcher at the University of Texas who is the expert in this spanking research has found that actually spanking and physical abuse leads to the same harmful effects," Evans said. "The harm was lower with spanking but they lead to the same outcome. So, that lets us know that there is not much of a difference between the two."
Brashears argued her side, believing that a mild spanking is fundamentally different from physical abuse.
She sees how well mannered and respectable her children have become because of the discipline they received when they were younger.
"The yanking of the arms and verbal abuse, I see that a lot. I think that is too far," she said.
"Here we have something that we know at best is ineffective, at worst harmful," Evans said.
Evans made it clear that research answers the controversial question, to spank or not to spank. Psychologists agree parents should not spank their kids.
Evans provided many different disciplinary techniques parents can use that are safe and effective, such as starting with specifically labeled praise, learning a child's development, ignoring their minor behavior while focusing more on the things they do right, and using time-out effectively.
At the end of the day, the mom of three does not regret her decision.
"I 100% believe in spanking when it's necessary," Brashears said. "Do they think I'm right? Probably not. Do I think they're right? No. But, there's got to be a happy medium. You just have to find that with your own kids, and mine was when they were younger, I spanked them."
Now that Brashears' children are teens, she doesn't spank them as often.
She has turned to grounding, taking away games and phones, which she says has also been effective.
Region 8 News spoke to some parents who do not spank their children. Some of them believe it teaches kids how to hit and it doesn't solve the problem, agreeing with psychologists.
To voice your opinion on the research Evans provided or your thoughts on spanking in general, you can visit the Region 8 News Facebook page here.
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