Study: Spanking children linked to mental disorders later in life

A new study finds that physically punishing children, such as spanking and hitting, may increase their risk of mental disorders when they're older, The Huffington Post reports.
2 to 7 percent of cases of mental disorders among adults are linked to physical punishment that occurred during childhood, the researchers said. These mental disorders include major depression, anxiety disorder and paranoia.
The study did not include people who experienced extreme physical, sexual, or emotional abuse but adds to the growing body of research that shows physical punishment in childhood can lead to poor mental health in adults. This includes increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse.
Researchers say the study suggests eliminating all physical punishment of children to reduce the prevalence of mental disorders.
Using physical punishment with children is a controversial practice, and is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Despite this, almost 50 percent of U.S. adults say they experienced physical punishment as children, such as being pushed, grabbed, shoved or spanked.
In this new study, researchers at the University of Manitoba in Canada analyzed information from more than 34,600 U.S. adults ages 20 and older, who were surveyed between 2004 and 2005.
Participants were asked, "As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?"
About 6 percent of participants said they experienced these forms of physical punishment sometimes, often, or very often in childhood, without experiencing other forms of maltreatment.
According to the researchers, those who were physically punished as children were 9 percent more likely to have alcohol dependence, 41 percent more like to have depression and 24 percent more likely to have panic disorder, compared with those who received no physical punishments.
Researchers also recommend that parents and physicians who work with children should be aware of this link. They should focus more on policies that reduce physical punishment, such as providing information on alternative discipline strategies.
Parents can use positive reinforcement for good behaviors, researchers said.
The researchers noted the results of the study found an association between physical punishment among children and mental disorders, and not necessarily a cause-effect link. The study was also limited since participants were asked to remember their childhood experiences, which may not be entirely accurate. Even so, research suggests people can remember negative events in childhood well.
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