Study: Spanking Children Can Lead to Drug, Mental Problems Later in Life

Spanking

Does this increase the chance of depression in kids later in life?

There are plenty of parents who don’t equate spanking with child abuse. Some perfectly normal and functional families mete out punishment with a smack to a kid’s butt, and even use a belt as a weapon to drive home a point.

Of course, plenty of parents would never use corporal punishment to teach a lesson because of the belief that hitting a child in anger only teaches the child that violence is an appropriate way to problem-solve.

A new study out of Canada shows those who don’t spank are doing their children a bigger favor than just teaching them an alternative way to work through an issue. That’s because kids who are spanked (or slapped or hit or grabbed) regularly are linked to more instances of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and other disorders later in life, according to the New York Daily News.

While previous studies have documented a link between physical abuse and mental illness, this one looked at less severe punishment and its affects on children. The likelihood of developing depression, mood disorders, phobias, drug problems or major disorders wasn’t dramatically greater in children who were spanked, but it was consistent, with “7 percent of mental illnesses attributed to the punishment,” according to the journal Pediatrics.

Furthermore, Dr. Victor Fornari, director of child and adolescent psychiatry at the North Shore-LIJ Health System told the New York Daily News that “research shows physical punishment doesn’t improve behavior and may make kids more aggressive.”

Will a study like this one deter parents who believe in corporal punishment? Probably not, if Babble readers are indicative of others parents who choose to spank their children. A post I wrote about spanking last year got plenty of comments from those who firmly believe violence is the answer when it comes to disciplining children.

Wrote Jenna:

I was spanked as a child, my husband was spanked, and our children will indeed be spanked. My mother and I were actually talking about this the other day and I told her I was so glad she spanked me. As a result I was taught to respect authority and never ever disrespected or talked back to my parents. Often I’ll see a parent with a screaming small child trying to reason with them in public, and it makes me want to roll my eyes. Children that small are simply too young to reason with. However, a spank is something they do understand.

As a toddler, I had a severe biting problem. My parents tried everything, to no avail. Finally after once again drawing blood on my mother’s shoulder, she bit me back. She didn’t bite hard, and she didn’t break the skin or leave a bruise, but she did bite hard enough to make me scream. And you know what? I never bit anyone again.

Spanking is not child abuse, and it is not a relic of the past, but an effective form of discipline when used correctly. It is also not just for the uneducated, as the previous commenter applied above. I am from an upper middle class background, and am pursuing my Ph.D. I consider myself very bright and educated, and also extremely pro-spanking. I am not pro-spanking because I “lack tools and lose control”, but because it works.

And C wrote:

My parents spanked me, but only in situations where I could be physically harmed by my actions. For example, crossing the street without them or running away in a parking lot. Basically, if I could kill myself doing something, then they wanted me to associate pain (at least, at a minimum level) with that activity. It was never in anger and never hard enough to leave the kind of welts this article seems to discuss, but I think it was a really effective tool to teach a young child about physical dangers. When my son is older, I can see limited situations like these where spanking would be an appropriate punishment.

This is what RT had to say:

I can’t say that I believe in spanking, “per se,” but I really don’t see the problem with an open handed swat on the bottom for younger children, if necessary.

During the ages of 2 and 3 there were occasional times when my son may have done something that was very wrong or extremely unsafe. I don’t think reasoning with a child of that age is beneficial and so he would get one swat on his bottom. Nearly all the time, it was just enough to snap him back to reality and get him to stop what he was doing. At most, this happened once a month.

Now that he’s five, we do not spank at all and haven’t since he was 3.

And Angelam:

I have spanked my child, but it’s in the context of which you do it. You can NEVER do it out of anger and it’s only to get their attention that they are doing something harmful to themselves or others. Only in America does the “spanking taboo” exist. If any of you went to Samoa or Italy you would be on the phone with child protective services the entire time! I’m not saying it’s for everybody but it is defiantly a personal parenting choice. I was never spanked as a child so I do not believe in the myth that it’s abuse or it’s a “learned” behavior. My child’s teachers are fully aware of my decision and they have never questioned my ability to parent and have noted that I have one of the most well mannered, patient, and cooperative students in class and I live in California!!

But Daria also speaks for many others on the opposite side of the aisle:

count me in as another parent who doesn’t spank and thinks it sends a terrible message to a child. i’m not terribly religious, but if we’re quoting the bible, rather than teaching an “eye for an eye,” i’d prefer to teach “love thy neighbor as thyself.” i teach my son respect, but use patience and consequences, which is tons more work and requires far more dedication than a swift smack. i want him to have body integrity and defend his body from assault. not sure how i could do this if i’m the one violating him.

What do you think? Do you still think spanking is OK, or does this study tell you that another discipline method is in order?

Photo credit: SCU.edu

Tagged as: , , , ,

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, profile photo and other personal information you make public on Facebook (e.g., school, work, current city, age) will appear with your comment. Learn More.