Healthy Living

Spankings May Later Cause Depression for Children

Physical punishments, such as spankings, are now being linked to depression, anxiety and other personality disorders.

According to researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada, people who are physically punished have more of an increased probability of experiencing mental disorders. About two to seven percent of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment.

For the study lead author, Tracie Afifi, assessed data from a government survey of 35,000 non-institutionalized adults in the United States, gathered between 2004 and 2005. Almost 1,300 of the respondents, all over the age of 20, considered to have experienced some form of physical punishment throughout their childhood. Many reported to have been pushed, slapped, grabbed, shoved or hit by their parents or adult living in the house.  Six percent of those who participated stated their punishment may have been more than just spanking either “sometimes”, “fairly often” or “very often”.

Those participants who endured a harsh history of physical punishment were more likely to have a range of mood and personality disorders or abuse to drug and alcohol. Nearly 20 percent of people who remembered being physically punished had been depressed, and 43 percent had abused alcohol at some point in their life, compared to 16 percent of people who were not hit/slapped who had been depressed and 30 percent who abused alcohol.

Afifi and her team were sure to not include those who have reported being physically, sexually and/or emotionally abused. Afifi did take in to consideration, those parents or legal guardians had been treated for mental illness, race, income and level of education.

While some researchers are against physical punishment, others are in favor of it. Robert Larzelere a psychologist from Oklahoma State University, Stillwater believes that severe punishment is not the way to go, but for younger children spanking may be appropriate as long as the child views the spanking as a motivational tool for their well-being and behavior. 

Although the results cannot prove a direct correlation with punishments, the physical punishment may lead to chronic stress, which in turn could increase a child’s chance of developing depression or anxiety.

Knox believes parents can choose other ways of punishment such as “time out” or using positive reinforcements to reward good behavior.

The study was published in the journal of Pediatrics

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