Although 32 countries across the world have banned physical punishment, parents’ so called right to spank remains a legal practice in the United States. A new research will only spark more controversies as spanking and other physical punishment have been linked to mental disorders.
Two years ago, a study by the University of North Carolina estimated 80 percent of U.S. preschool children are spanked. According to the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment, both the United States and Canada have not abolished the so called parents’ right to apply physical punishment. A Canadian study shows the consequences are more significant over the years, as physical punishment leads to mental disorders.
The journal “Pediatrics” published today a study looking at a very sensitive subject. Researchers with Canada’s University of Manitoba, Department of Community Health Sciences, investigated the link between different sorts of maltreatment in childhood and the development of mental disorders.
Epidemiologist Tracie Afifi and lead author of the research explains “there is a significant link between” non-abusive physical punishment and mental disorders. “Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental disorders” concluded Afifi after his research pointed that 2 to 7 percent of the mental disorders investigated have been linked to a history of physical punishment during childhood.
Afifi’s research analyzed data from 34,000 U.S. adults over age 20. 1,300 persons reported to have been “pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by (…) parents or any adult living in (…) house”. For the researcher, her study is proof enough that “physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age”.
“What’s really important is to know that spanking and other forms of physical punishment come at a cost” said Afifi. Researchers found that personality disorders as well as addiction to alcohol and drugs are a common result of physical punishment during childhood. Regular spanking of a child is increasing his odds to develop mood disorders and suffer from anxiety later on, as well as a social phobia. Not to mention major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and panic disorder.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics is strongly against physical punishment, spanking a child is more like common practice in the United States. Psychologist Robert Larzelere with the Oklahome State University says that when “spanking is used in the most appropriate way (…) the child perceives it as being motivated by concern for their behavior and welfare”.