Spanking--does it help?
Education and the Culture
Wars Blog
Can spanking cause mental illness?
By Dr. Jennifer Shu
July 2, 2012

Parents often ask me whether spanking is really so bad. After all, they were
spanked as kids and they turned out fine. Plus, it's the only thing that will get their
child to listen, they say.

Much research has focused on the effects that severe child abuse can have on a
person's mental well-being. But a new study published in the July issue of the
journal Pediatrics takes a look at the possible link between mental health disorders
and harsh physical punishment in the absence of abuse. The findings may
persuade parents not to spank at all.

Researchers from Canada found that physical punishment (such as slapping,
hitting, pushing and shoving) -- even without child neglect or physical, sexual or
emotional abuse -- was linked to mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance
abuse and personality disorders.

When does spanking become abuse?

While it may be true that many of today's parents were spanked as children and are
now well-adjusted, previous studies have also shown that those who were spanked
are at a higher risk to be depressed; use alcohol; hit their spouse or own children;
and engage in violent or criminal behaviors.

Physical punishment doesn't help, it hurts

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society
discourage spanking and other forms of physical punishment. It is unlawful in 32
countries -- not including the United States or Canada -- for parents and other
caregivers to use physical punishment against children.

The new study's lead author, Tracie Afifi, said she believes that physical
punishment should not be used on children of any age and that positive parenting
strategies should instead be encouraged.

Preferred methods of discipline do not include physical punishment. For example,
withholding privileges, using time-outs and offering consequences (for example, "If
you throw your toy and it breaks, you won't be able to play with it anymore").

African-Americans most likely to use physical punishment

Dr. Howard Bennett, a pediatrician in Washington and clinical professor of
pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, recommends
praising children when they are behaving well and using time-outs or a process
called "time off," in which the child must go to another part of the house for as long
as it takes to stop the offending behavior and behave normally again.
Education Reform Report