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New Study: Spanked Kids = Messed-Up Grownups

PHOTO: Physical punishment of children increases the chances of mood, anxiety and personality disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, says a study in the latest Journal of Pediatrics.
PHOTO: Physical punishment of children increases the chances of mood, anxiety and personality disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, says a study in the latest Journal of Pediatrics.
July 19, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Physical punishment of children increases their chances of mood, anxiety and personality disorders, and alcohol and drug abuse in adulthood, according to a study in the Journal of Pediatrics. Canadian researchers using data from nearly 35,000 American adults found from 2 percent to 7 percent of mental disorders were attributable to physical punishment.

To many experts, including Cyndi Scott, executive director of the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect, this reinforces what is already known about spanking.

"It's not going to be beneficial to the child, or to the parent, to use any kind of physical force. We would not recommend people hitting children."

The alternative, say some authorities on parenting, is talk - talking to a child both before and after they engage in behavior that is not approved.

Marcy Safyer runs the Parenting Institute at Adelphi University. She points out that parents have alternatives to physical punishment.

"They need to be 'bigger, stronger, wiser and kind.' They need to pick the child up from whatever it is and remove them; sit with them until the child calms down; and then say to them, 'Let's talk about why I don't want you to do that.'"

Some in West Virginia have described spanking as a more traditional, and more effective, form of punishment. Scott acknowledges that a lot of parents still feel that way.

"There are times when people feel like, 'Oh, that's ridiculous. I was raised - my parents spanked me, so I should be able to spank my child.' But we also know - we see children who have been harmed by adults - it can lead to trauma."

Safyer says parents should not be a cause of fear in a child's life, especially from ages zero to 3, when brain development is at its most rapid and crucial phase.

"During that time, a child develops the foundation and capabilities that all the rest of their development builds upon. Their parents' job at that time is to be a secure base that the child can come back to when they're anxious and frightened in the world."

Spanking is outlawed in more than 30 countries. It is legal for parents to use physical punishment on their children in the U.S., although laws exist that define what crosses the line and must be reported as abuse.


Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV