Study Shows Spanking Links to Mental Illness
Disciplining children can prove to be a difficult process for both child and parent. It is very important that young children learn what is okay and appropriate versus not—there is no question about that—however, the way in which parents choose to discipline their children can be easily scrutinized. Though many of the critiques come from other parents, every so often, the critiques come from the law. Corporal punishment is, in fact, illegal in 32 nations—America is not one of them. Many adults recall being spanked as a punishment when they were children, which they considered normal. However, more recently, studies have surfaced out of Canada that found links between being spanked as a child and developing mental illnesses as an adult.
Canadian researchers have discovered that people whom were spanked at a young age are at a higher risk of developing mood and anxiety disorders and problems with drug and alcohol abuse, says Yahoo! Health. The study excluded more severe physical or sexual abuse in order to gauge the direct effects of lighter physical punishments. According to research from the US journal Pediatrics, and out of more than 600 surveyed adults, those who were spanked or hit as children were 2 and 7% more likely to encounter mental issues later in life. That rate “is not dramatically higher, but it is higher, just to suggest that physical punishment is a risk factor for developing more mental disturbances as an adult,” said Victor Fornari, director of the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York.
The study focused solely on forms of “harsh physical punishment” which is defined as pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping or hitting as a form of punishment from elders, according to Yahoo! Health. This particular study asked participants: “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?” Those who answered “sometimes” or greater were included in further analysis. In a similar survey of 653 Americans, researchers found that anywhere between 2 and 5% of disorders like depression, anxiety, bipolar, anorexia or bulimia were attributable to physical punishment as a child. Though there is not substantial evidence to support the theory that harsh physical punishment caused these disorders in adults, there is definitely a link between them.
Some researchers, like Roya Samuels, a pediatrician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York, assert that it may not be the act of physical punishment that creates mental illness, but the fact that parents who resort to spanking could be suffering from mental illnesses (anxiety, depression, etc.) themselves, and pass it on to their children genetically. If parents take anything away from the study, it really should be the notion that there are less harmful, more effective ways to discipline a child other than spanking. “And for some vulnerable kids, the spanking may increase their risk for the development of mental disturbances. So for those reasons it is important to really minimize or extinguish physical punishment,” says Fornari. Both the The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society advise against spanking children.
Were you spanked as a child? What are your thoughts on spanking? Tell us what you think!