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Gershoff Named President of Psychology Society, Earns National Award

Gershoff Named President of Psychology Society, Earns National Award

Elizabeth Gershoff, professor of human development and family sciences in the School of Human Ecology at the University of Texas at Austin, has been named the winner of a national award recognizing the outstanding work of psychologists in the field of child advocacy and policy.

A long-time researcher of the impact of spanking and corporal punishment on children, Gershoff received the 2019 Nicholas Hobbs Award from the American Psychological Association's Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice. The award, given at the APA's conference in Chicago this month, recognizes psychologists who are dedicated to advocacy and policy that affect the lives of children.

Jennifer Kaminski, past president of the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice shared part of a letter nominating Gershoff for the award. "In addition to her pioneering research, Liz has been extremely effective at bridging research and policy, bringing the research findings to policy makers and communicating them in a way that distills complex results concisely and effectively," the letter said. "We have clear indications that policy makers have drawn upon the research Liz has conducted, and that the research is being used to work towards eliminating corporal punishment."

Gershoff also has been named the next president of the Society for Child and Family Policy and Practice. Her term will begin in 2021.

Her groundbreaking research into the effects of physical punishment on children have led to a number of positive developments in recent months. Earlier this year, the American Psychological Association adopted formal recommendations to encourage parents not to use physical punishment, and instead use collaborative conflict resolution, respectful communication and modeling orderly behavior. And last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement urging its members to educate parents about the adverse effects of physical punishment. Both groups cited Gershoff's research.

In 2016, Gershoff led a meta-analysis of 50 years of data on physical punishment of children published in the Journal of Family Psychology. The analysis found the more children are spanked, the more likely they are to defy their parents and to experience increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health problems and cognitive difficulties. Her 2008 report on the effects of physical punishment on children was endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Gershoff's work also has led to changes in schools. She has briefed members of Congress on school corporal punishment and presented research on the subject to the U.S. Department of Education. In fact, after Gershoff met with staff of the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights in 2016, former U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr., issued a letter to all governors and state heads of education calling for them to end the use of corporal punishment in public schools. Three states subsequently passed laws in 2017 and 2018 to restrict the use of corporal punishment on children with disabilities (Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Tennessee). Remaining districts in North Carolina that allowed corporal punishment banned it in 2018.

"Her stellar research, her numerous publications in our most prestigious journals, and her accessible yet scholarly writing are leading the way for an entire movement, both in the United States and elsewhere, to end physical punishment of children both in schools and in the home," said University of California, Davis psychology professor Gail S. Goodman.