Spanking Kids May Cause Mental Disorders in Adulthood

A study adds to mounting evidence that physical punishment could be harmful.

A study finds that delivering harsh physical punishment in childhood may increase the risk of having mental disorders in adulthood. (Photo: PhotoAlto/Sandro Di Carlo Darsa/Getty Images)

Jul 2, 2012
Jeannine Stein, a California native, wrote about health for the Los Angeles Times. In her pursuit of a healthy lifestyle she has taken countless fitness classes, hiked in Nepal and got in a boxing ring.

Spare the rod and spoil the child? Not entirely—a study finds that using harsh but non-abusive physical punishment on children may boost the risk of developing mental disorders in adulthood.

The study, released online today in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 34,653 adults age 20 and older who were part of the National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. They were asked, “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?”

Almost six percent of the study participants experienced harsh physical punishment, which was associated with a higher risk of having mood and anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, and various personality disorders. The results were found after researchers adjusted for variables such as gender, age, marital status, and family dysfunction.

Using physical punishment to discipline children is highly controversial, although other studies have shown that spanking may be an ineffective form of punishment that could lead kids to become more aggressive.

Lead author Tracie Affi told USA Today that the study’s findings bolstered the case that “physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age.”

Do you think spanking is an acceptable form of punishment for children? Let us know in the comments.

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