Posted in: Health Studies

Don’t Spank Your Child: Physical Punishment Linked To Mental Disorders [Study]

Physical Punished Including Spanking Linked To Mental Disorders

Physical punishment including pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, hitting, and spanking in the absence of more severe child abuse is associated with an increased risk of mental disorders including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse, substance dependence, and personality disorders, says a new study published in the August 2012 issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Spanking and the use of other physical punishment to discipline a child is a controversial subject. Previous research in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine has discovered that, when parents use physical punishment to deter antisocial behavior, the long-term effect tends to be the opposite. Children who are disciplined with physical punishment like spanking end up exhibiting more antisocial behavior.

In recent news, a Georgetown, Ohio man, Charles Sweeney, 23, was indicted for violently spanking a 5-month-old baby. As Fox 19 reports, Sweeney shook and spanked the infant, causing a fractured rib and bruising. Other parents and caregivers have also been arrested after using physical punishment including spanking on children.

A recent study conducted by researchers at the Departments of Community Health Sciences, Psychiatry, Family Social Sciences, and Psychology at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada has concluded that harsh physical punishment in the absence of more severe child abuse is associated with an increased risk for mental disorders.

For the study, the researchers collected data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions between the years 2004 and 2005. The survey was conducted with a representative US adult population sample.

Harsh physical punishment included spanking as well acts of physical force beyond slapping. Physical punishment was distinguished from child maltreatment, which included severe physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, and exposure to intimate partner violence.

According to the study, harsh physical punishment during childhood was linked to an increased likelihood of most lifetime mental disorders including major depression, dysthymia, mania, any mood disorder, specific phobias, any anxiety disorder, and any alcohol and drug abuse or dependence during adulthood. In other words, children who are disciplined with physical punishment including spanking are more likely to suffer from mental disorders as adults.

The results of this study are important for a number of reasons. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Canadian Pediatrics Society oppose or discourage the use of physical punishment against children. However, the researchers believe that their findings could be used to formulate a “more explicit position statement” that states that “physical punishment (ie, spanking,smacking, slapping) should not be used with children of any age.”

Furthermore, as the researchers conclude:

“From a public health perspective, reducing physical punishment may help to decrease the prevalence of mental disorders in the general population. Policies need to be focused on strategies to reduce physical punishment, which again points to the importance of positive parenting approaches.”

Do you agree that physical punishment including spanking should not be used to discipline children?

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29 Responses to “Don’t Spank Your Child: Physical Punishment Linked To Mental Disorders [Study]”

  1. Anonymous

    In light of the Judge Adams video,

    We often hear from those who fight to uphold this practice for those under the age of 18 (even to the blaming of the social maladies of the day on a supposed "lack" of it), but we rarely, if ever, find advocates for the return of corporal punishment to the general adult community, inmate population, military, or college campuses. Why is that?

    Ask ten unyielding proponents of child/adolescent/teenage-only "spanking" about the "right" way to do it, and what would be abusive, indecent, or obscene, and you will get ten different answers.

    These proponents should consider making their own video-recording of the "right way" to do it.

  2. Alexis Brimhall

    this must be a joke. when I misbehaved, my parents gave me and my siblings spankings and stuff like that, not reguarly, but when I needed it. as with all my brothers. and it has happened to almost every child in the past. yet almost all of them turned out fine. a little pain is a good thing. it helps them to rember a lot better than just a timeout. I think there is a time when the child will grow older, and you should stop with the spankings, and go to grounding, if the punishment matches up to it. by then, they probably have something they really love, and the are going out and hanging with friends. anyways, I think it is good to spank kids once in a while. not hard enough that it hurts them of anything, just enough so that it is eaiser to teach them things like respect and dicipline and stuff like that.

  3. Rachel Arnt-Schemmel

    Duh. Similar data has been out at least since the early 90s. Many parents just refuse to hear it. Some are too lazy to apply themselves to learning a more humane and effective way to discipline. Others get satisfaction from taking out their anger on their kids.

  4. Rachel Arnt-Schemmel

    Duh. Similar data has been out at least since the early 90s. Many parents just refuse to hear it. Some are too lazy to apply themselves to learning a more humane and effective way to discipline. Others get satisfaction from taking out their anger on their kids.

  5. Indy Chakrabarti

    Do you happen to have an article with the statistics around this. Hate to be the neanderthal, but after long being anti spanking, I came around to support it a few years ago.

    Like women, I too can't stand the thought of violence. But I started rethinking it from the perspective of more traditional men. They don't actually mind physical pain as much as I do. They choose to box, play football and get in fights. So light spanking for males above 4 might be all right.

    But that's a hunch. I'd like to read about the counter points. But articles like this are insidious. No stats are given. But by using quotes of esteemed people and guiding text they feel ominous.

    So I could be very wrong on this point. But if you come cross stats, I'm all ears. (hitting female children probably does have issues. Men and women are just configured very differently towards violence. Hence why women so commonly oppose hitting kids.)

  6. Mathilda Williams

    Indy, I don't think there is a fundamental difference in how boys and girls perceive punishment/discipline. Some boys are indeed much more sensitive, and will be deeply humiliated by spanking, more so than some girls I know. It's not a gender thing, in my opinion. The issue of spanking is something that will be with us for many more years, probably forever, but I think if you're opposed to spanking, it should be applied to both genders.

  7. Indy Chakrabarti

    Mathilda – definitely agree, individuals in any sample are different. So some boys will be more sensitive. Parents always have to make changes per kid.

    Rachel – that link was awesome. Those guys tried to do the real analysis. Remove the effects of abuse, adjust for demographics and then look at outcomes.

    But unfortunately, their outcome fell shy of what I imagine they hoped. Roughly 5% more of the population experiences problems due to spanking. As the authors themselves state – it's a low number. But obviously, even 5% is bad.

    So here's the remaining confounding factors.

    1. What pct of the population improves due to spanking thru better disciple? Probably no one studies that – and tough to do so.

    2. They make no distinction in frequency of spanking. Curious because they asked the question but don't tell you the outcome. Ie do the problems only arise for frequent spanking?

    It may be that for infrequent spanking, which is all anyone advocates on the pro spanking side, the incidence of bad outcomes is say 2% worse.

    That's still worse. But at that number about as bad as 1000s of other permissible acts.

    But most problematically this fails to account for the entire reason to spank – the purported positive effects that arise from increased compliance to parental desires. Kids who don't light matches for fear they will get smacked.

    Not assessing the possible upside would be like saying sports is bad because 80% of childhood injuries come from playing sports.

  8. Alexis Brimhall

    just an opinion. im only 14, still young enough to remember that i hated being spanked, and so i would do what i was suppose to do the first time was asked, like obediant kids should be, but old enough to realize that its a good thing. and yeah, it DOES have about the same weight as the results of scientific research. SOME people just refuse to look at it from both sides. without spankings, what are you going to do, ground them? they would be too little to sit there long enough to rember why they were put there in the first place. im not saying it is good to beat your kids, just do it had enough to get their attention. with so many people against so much as grabbing their kids' wrists now adays, its no supprise how the kids are turning out now. they are disrespectful, rude, and frankly, i am getting sick of it. think what you will, but dont rag on other people just because they dont believe in everything the same way you do, or without seeing things the way you do.

  9. Rachel Arnt-Schemmel

    I'm sorry I was sarcastic with you, Alexis. I didn't realize you were a kid. It's still true, though, that anecdote does *not* have the same weight as scientific research. You'll learn more about scientific research methods in your high school and college classes. Facts and opinions aren't interchangeable. "Looking at both sides" is only a virtue in cases when there's not one right answer. Now, if you want to challenge research by questioning its methods or the logic of the authors' conclusions from the data, that's allowed. But you don't get to just say "My opinion is as good as your fact." It's not.

  10. Pamela Broussard Jones

    People are stupid!! This is the problem with kids today…..

  11. Suzan Dunn

    Alexis Brimhall I think you are a very mature 14 year old. Perhaps more so than those who challenge what appears to be your considered opinion. Whether I or anyone else agrees with your opinion, it is clear you have thought about what you are saying. Keep THINKING and keep an open mind.

  12. William Ranalli

    I think these experts use spankings in the wrong maner alot of the social inabilities are handed down from generations if the family on both sides have mental or charactor defects that's pass down sure sexual abuse is deffinitly wrong which cuases mental defects or anti social inabilities I made some bad choices in my life not due to spankings but cuz of the feelings I had due to being manipulated, lied too and so on but I made the choice to isolate and medicate no one twisted my arm just a choise since then I'm more productive in society and been clean and sober for over 11 yrs now and raising a 9ry old alone with out any help life is good today and I give all grace too god! :-)

  13. Gabriel H Cooper

    What I have learned from the experts: everything causes cancer, subjecting birds to a low calcium diet causes their eggshells to get thinner, the person paying for the project gets what he wants, and data is merely there for our manipulation.

  14. Mona Kay Blamires-Weeks

    VERY PROUD OF ALL YOU HAVE OVER COME…you're a good friend and a wonderful dad.

  15. Curt Granger

    The problem with people today is they believe too much of what they read on the internet. Raise your children the way you think is best, within the law, and within the confines of common sense. As Andy Griffith once said, "There are no rules for parenting. Each parent raises his child the way he thinks is best."

  16. Curt Granger

    The problem with people today is they believe too much of what they read on the internet. Raise your children the way you think is best, within the law, and within the confines of common sense. As Andy Griffith once said, "There are no rules for parenting. Each parent raises his child the way he thinks is best."

  17. Sarah Michelle

    It's just because all of the jerks that take it too far when punishing their kids. There is a big difference between a good ole spanking or getting popped vs mentally and physically beating a child. Those are the ones who take it too far.. Now if you pop your kid in Walmart you'll get takin to jail! Good Lawd!

  18. Beth McCay

    Mine will tell you straight up, I was a butt spanking Momma! Didn't happen often but if it was deserved, it was delivered.
    There is a major difference between spanking and abuse. Parents who abuse their children are not going to stop because of a rule or law against it. That's in the hands of those around them to pay attention and do something about it for the sake of the child. Sadly though, people close their eyes and turn their backs because they don't want to get involved.
    Sorry…I've just seen to much of what abuse does and leaves behind. It's an emotional topic for me.

  19. JuLeah Willson

    Beth McCay The problem is, every parent that does abuse makes the same claim: Big difference between spanking and abuse and I would never ever abuse my child …. I work with kids who have been abused and all the parents express such anger towards parents that abuse, and all claim they never ever abused their kid… just spanked em, just popped em on the butt …. Now, I know some parents really don't take it further then a pop on the butt, but it frightens me when I hear parents speak those words because I've seen the black eyes and swollen bodies ….

  20. JuLeah Willson

    Alexis AJ Brimhall The stumbling block I run into in this conversation, is the idea that 1) spanking equals discipline and 2) without spanking there is no discipline

    Where bridges need to be built, in my opinion, is in understanding that spanking is punishment

    Punishment does not teach

    Discipline means to teach