Young children who are regularly spanked by their parents are likely to have lower social development, warns a new study.
Spanking is one of the most common forms of child discipline or an act of slapping used by parents worldwide.
The study showed that a child's social development suffered in both the cases in which he or she was spanked or during the times when a sibling was spanked.
"It appears that spanking may do more harm than good," said Garrett Pace, lead author from the University of Michigan in the US.
"Reductions in corporal punishment might do a great deal to reduce the burden of children's mental health and improve child development outcomes globally," Pace added.
For the study, published in the journal Child Abuse and Neglect, the team used data collected by Unicef in 62 countries and demonstrated that caregivers' reports of spanking were related to lower social development among 215,885 three- and four-year-old children.
One-third of the respondents indicated they believed physical punishment is necessary to bring up, raise or educate a child properly.
Among the children studied, 43 per cent were spanked, or resided in a home where another child was spanked.
Given the high prevalence of this behaviour across cultural contexts at the global population level, even small effect sizes showing detrimental associations with child well-being should be viewed as compelling evidence that exposure to socially sanctioned family violence, such as spanking, is a significant and meaningful public health problem.
An implication is that this behaviour may have worldwide consequences for children's mental health, and their mental health as adults.
More effort to create policies that discourage spanking has occurred globally.
In fact, 54 countries have banned the use of corporal punishment, which can only benefit children's well-being in the long term, according to the study.