The study in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found a high percentage of American parents spank or slap their children. And it suggests children who are spanked, hit, or pushed as a means of discipline may be at an increased risk of mental problems in adulthood — from mood and anxiety disorders to drug and alcohol abuse.
It equates harsh physical punishment with increased mood disorders, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug abuse and dependence, severe personality disorders and even depression. Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders. Approximately 2% to 7% of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment.
Some people might even say that spanking turns into abuse later in life.
Many parents don’t believe in it and feel that punishment is a “time out” or sitting in the corner that can do good – even taking away a Nintendo or PS3 or the TV is enough of a punishment for many children today. The reality is that many parents say they do and would use spanking as a form of discipline. So what is the right tactic?
Parents’ right to use physical punishment has been abolished in more than 30 nations, but not in the USA or Canada, says the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment, endorsed by the United Nations and others.
For the study, Afifi and colleagues analyzed data from a government survey of 35,000 non-institutionalized adults in the USA, collected between 2004 and 2005.
About 1,300 of the respondents, all over age 20, were considered to have experienced physical punishment as children. They reported that they had, sometimes or more often, been “pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house.”
But some family researchers argue that spanking, used properly, can be appropriate discipline.
I personally am a fan of not spanking and anyone who needs suggestions on more-effective methods of discipline to a primer on USNews.com called “3 Alternatives to Spanking That Work for Parents and Kids”:
- Focus on rewarding positive behavior rather than punishing bad deeds. Check out this video with Alan Kazdin, director of the Yale Child Study Center, showing how to praise a child right with immediate, focused praise rather than the bland “good job!”
- Time-outs work, but they have to be done right to serve as effective punishment. A good time-out is short, focused and doesn’t involve lectures after the fact.
- Be consistent in how you discipline your children. This one’s tough for all parents — hey, we’re humans too! — but will go a long way toward making your home a haven rather than a battlefield.
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