Updated 01 October 2019

Giving your child a time-out won't cause long-term damage

Time-out is one of the only child discipline strategies recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Time-outs don't increase kids' risk of emotional or behavioural problems, according to a new study that researchers say dispels misleading information.

The study included the children of nearly 1 400 US parents. Of those parents, 28% said they used time-outs when their child was three years old.

From age three through fifth-grade, there were no differences in emotional and behavioural health between children who had time-outs and those who did not, the investigators found.

Rachel Knight, an assistant professor of clinical psychology at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor, led the study, which was published online recently in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics.

"No differences were found with respect to child internalising problems, including anxiety and depression, externalising problems, including aggression and rule-breaking behaviour, or self-control," Knight's team reported.

The authors noted that time-out is one of the only child discipline strategies recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Highly effective strategy

Even though extensive research has shown it to be effective, some online information and media reports have claimed time-outs increase the risk of behavioural problems and damage parent-child relationships, the study authors explained.

"Parents often resort to the internet and social media for guidance, but the internet provides inaccurate information for families regarding the use of time-out," Knight and her colleagues warned.

Research findings on the topic need to be offered in a "readily accessible and easily digestible format … to assuage possible parental concerns and promote the use of this highly effective child discipline strategy," the study authors urged.

However, as with previous research, the new study linked physical punishment to externalising behaviours in kids.

"We hope our findings will be helpful to parents who see confusing and at times alarming claims of negative side effects of time-out," Knight said in a journal news release.

Image credit: iStock


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