New research says "spanking is bad," but probably not for reasons you expected. A study of more than 34,000 adults showed that "harsh" punishment like spanking might lead to obesity, heart disease, and arthritis later in life.
"Harsh" physical punishment includes slapping, shoving and spanking, and could lead to poorer health in adults according to research published in the August issue of Pediatrics.
Out of 34,000 adults, those who said that they were harshly disciplined had slightly higher risks for obesity, arthritis and heart disease.
Researchers were reluctant to call the suggestion a definitive link, and said that their findings did not prove that physical punishment affects kids' long-term health.
"It's an association. We can't say the punishment is causing the physical health problems," said lead researcher Tracie Afifi.
She did add that the team's findings seem to support previous evidence that physical punishment can harm kids in more ways that you'd think. Several studies have linked physical punishment to aggressive behavior and poor emotional well-being.
"Kids need discipline," Afifi added. "But it shouldn't involve physical force."
Critics of the study say that the results aren't terribly compelling. One child abuse expert not involved with the study thinks that "harsh discipline" wasn't well defined for the purposes of the research.
"You can't say, based on this alone, 'OK, now we know we shouldn't use any physical punishment,'" the expert said, allowing for an occasional whack on the behind.
A psychology professor also cast doubt on the research, even though he admitted he's not an advocate of spanking. "I wouldn't want parents who have spanked their kids to become alarmed by this," he said.
Still, Afifi said that the research isn't supposed to "point the finger" at parents who spank their kids, but that it could and should encourage parents to find non-physical ways to discipline children.
Do you think spanking is bad for kids?
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