They were also more likely to undertake voluntary work and keener to attend university, experts discovered.
The research, conducted in the United States, is likely to anger children’s rights campaigners who have unsuccessfully fought to ban smacking in Britain.
Currently, parents are allowed by law to mete out “reasonable chastisement” on their children, providing smacking does not leave a mark or bruise. These limits were clarified in the 2004 Children’s Act.
But children’s groups and MPs have argued that spanking is an outdated form of punishment that can cause long-term mental health problems.
Marjorie Gunnoe, professor of psychology at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, said her study showed there was insufficient evidence to deny parents the freedom to determine how their children should be punished.
She said: “The claims made for not spanking children fail to hold up. They are not consistent with the data.