Spanking kids may lead to mental problems: Study 0
(Suzanne Bird/QMI Photo Illustration)
Children who are spanked, hit, or pushed as a means of discipline may be at an increased risk of mental problems in adulthood — from mood and anxiety disorders to drug and alcohol abuse, a Canadian professor says.
Although it is well established that physical and sexual abuse is associated with mental illness, Tracie Afifi, an assistant professor at the University of Manitoba and the study's lead author, says her paper is one of the first to show a link between non-abusive physical punishment and several different types of mental disorders.
"There is a significant link between the two," Afifi suggests. "Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders."
Approximately 2% to 7% of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment, she says.
The study's findings add evidence to the argument that "physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age," she says.
For the study, Afifi and colleagues analyzed data from a government survey of 35,000 adults in the U.S. collected between 2004 and 2005.
About 1,300 of the respondents, all over age 20, were considered to have experienced physical punishment as children. They reported that they had, sometimes or more often, been "pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house."
While the new study rules out the most severe cases of physically lashing out at children, "it does nothing to move beyond correlations to figure out what is actually causing the mental health problems," says psychologist Robert Larzelere of Oklahoma State University,. He criticized the study's reliance on memories of events from years earlier, and says it's not clear when punishment occurred.
Afifi acknowledges that it's difficult to change people's mind on this topic, but says "we're confident of the reliability of our data, and the data strongly indicate that physical punishment should not be used on children — at any age. And it's important for parents to be aware of that."