USA Today is profiling a study in the medical journal Pediatrics that connects non-abusive physical punishment (i.e. spanking) of children with mental disorders later in life.
“There is a significant link between the two,” says Afifi, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Canada. “Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders.” Approximately 2% to 7% of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment, she says.
The study’s findings add evidence to the argument that “physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age,” she says.
Interestingly, physical punishment of any form has been banned for years in 30 countries, but is still legal in the US and Canada.
One person contesting the conclusions of this study is Robert Larzelere, who coauthored a study in 2005 that studied many forms of discipline. He feels that “appropriate” physical punishment combined with non-physical discipline can be the most effective tool in curbing bad behavior.
As a parent, on a personal level, I know that the type of physical punishment recommended by Lazerlere is rare. Most often, it seems spanking or other forms of physical discipline come when a parent is angry, not when they’re monitoring themselves closely to be sure to inflict the right amount of pressure combined with non-physical behavioral consequences. I would be interested in a study of parents who use physical punishment to discover whether they’re doing it “right”.
I fear, rather, that parents who use physical discipline in anger, without the appropriate corresponding behavioral consequences and conversations, will take any excuse to say “Spanking is healthy and important” without looking at the data.
What do you think? Were you spanked or otherwise punished physically?
How do you discipline your children?
If you did spank, did you always feel totally in control of yourself? How were you sure that you didn’t go too far?
Photo of lonely boy courtesy of Shutterstock