Spanking Children & Mental Health: Punishment Linked To Disorders Later In Life

Written by Christy Whitman July 27, 2012

Conscious parents understand that spanking kids just does not feel good. But now there is a study that shows it is linked to major depression.

Spanking or hitting children as a means of punishment may increase their risk of mental disorders later in life, a new study finds.

Among adults, 2 to 7 percent of cases of mental disorders — including major depression, anxiety disorder and paranoia — are attributable to physical punishment that occurred during childhood, the researchers said.

The study did not include people who experienced maltreatment as children, such as such as physical or sexual abuse, or emotional neglect.

The study adds to a growing body of research showing that physical punishment in childhood can lead to poor mental health in adulthood, including increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse.

The findings suggest that eliminating all physical punishment of children would reduce the prevalence of mental disorders, the researchers said.

Use of physical punishment with children is controversial, and the practice is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, close to 50 percent of U.S. adults say they experienced physical punishment as children, such as being pushed, grabbed, shoved or spanked. Could this be the link between so many adults being depressed now in life?

The study also showed those who experienced physical punishment were 59 percent more likely to have alcohol dependence, 41 percent more like to have depression and 24 percent more likely to have panic disorder, compared with those who received no physical punishments, the researchers said.

If you’ve spanked your child, you may feel guilty and contrite. Don’t be afraid to express your contrition to your child. Use the experience to teach your child that everybody makes mistakes, and how to handle contrition, remorse, and restitution. This present-day mistake, rather than a tale from your past, can be a powerful teaching tool.

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