A study in the latest Journal of Pediatrics suggests physical punishment of children increases their chances of mood, anxiety, and personality disorders, and it also increases the likelihood of drug and alcohol abuse in adulthood. Researchers used data from nearly 35,000 American adults and found that two to seven percent of mental disorders were attributable to physical punishment.
This research reinforces what experts already know about spanking, says Cyndi Scott of the Coalition Against Child Abuse and Neglect.
“It’s not going to be beneficial to the child or to the parent for them to use any kind of physical force,” Scott said. “So, we would not recommend people hitting children.”
Parenting authorities say the alternative is to talk. They say talking to a child both before and after they engage in behavior that is not approved is more appropriate, and although corporal punishment is legal in Indiana for parents and schools, some districts have banned it.
Scott says that a lot of parents still see spanking as an effective method to discourage misbehavior.
“There are times where people feel like, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous. I was raised – my parents spanked me, you know, I should be able to spank my child.’ But we also know that we have seen children who have been harmed by adults and it can lead to trauma,” said Scott.
Spanking is outlawed in more than 30 countries, and while it is legal for parents to use physical punishment on their children in the United States, laws still exist that define what crosses the line and is considered abuse.