Spanking Could Lead to Mental Illness Later in Life

July 03,2012
Lindsay Hutton( )

A new study published by the online journal Pediatrics has found that individuals who were spanked, hit, or slapped as a child have a higher risk of mental illness as an adult, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse dependence, and several personality disorders.

The study included a sample of civilian, non-institutionalized adults aged 20 or over. They were asked about current medical conditions and past incidence of physical punishments.

In interviews, participants were asked how often as a child they were pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by their parents or any adult in their household. The participants used a 5 point scale to answer never, almost never, sometimes, fairly often, and very often.

Those who answered sometimes or higher were defined as having experienced harsh physical punishment as a child.

Participants who also reported severe physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, or exposure to intimate partner violence were excluded from the final analysis.

Overall, about 5.9% of the participants reported harsh physical punishment during childhood.

After adjustment for socioeconomic factors and family dysfunction, the study found that those who were physically punished were at an increased risk for most lifetime Axis I mental disorders. Including:

  • 41 percent increased risk for depression
  • 93 percent increased risk for mania
  • 49 percent increased risk for any mood disorder
  • 36 percent higher risk for any anxiety disorder
  • 59 percent higher risk of alcohol abuse or dependence
  • 53 percent higher of drug abuse or dependence
     

The study concluded that the findings provide evidence that harsh physical punishment, separate from child maltreatment and abuse, is related to adult mental disorders.

What are your thoughts on these findings? Were you spanked as a child? Do you suffer from an adult mental illness?

If you are a parent, how do you feel about spanking as a disciplinary action? Weight in and tell us your thoughts!