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This research summary adds credence to a key premise of this Web site: that
early-childhood trauma promotes significant psychological wounds.
For perspective on this research summary, this brief YouTube video suggests keys to effective child discipline.
The video mentions eight lessons in this self-improvement Web site. I've
reduced that to seven.
comments after the summary. - Peter Gerlach, MSW
+ + +
Spanking or hitting children
as a means of punishment may increase their risk of mental disorders later
in life, a new study finds.
Among adults, 2 to 7 percent of cases of mental disorders — including major
depression, anxiety disorder and paranoia — are attributable to physical
punishment that occurred during childhood, the researchers said.
The study did not include
people who experienced maltreatment as children, such as such as physical or
sexual abuse, or emotional neglect.
The study adds to a growing body of research showing that physical
punishment in childhood can lead to poor mental health in adulthood,
including increased risk of depression, suicidal thoughts and alcohol abuse.
[See Embarrassing Punishments Hurt Kids.]
The findings suggest that
eliminating all physical punishment of children would reduce the prevalence
of mental disorders, the researchers said.
Spanking Kids is Common
Use of physical punishment with children is controversial, and the practice
is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics. However,
close to 50 percent of U.S. adults
say they experienced physical punishment as children, such as being
pushed, grabbed, shoved or spanked.
In the new study, Tracie A??, of the University of Manitoba in Canada, and
colleagues 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
About 6 percent of participants said they experienced these forms of
physical punishment sometimes, fairly often, or very often in childhood,
without experiencing other forms of maltreatment.
Those who experienced physical punishment were 59 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, the researchers said.
Parents and physicians who work with children should be aware of this link,
the researchers said. Policies should focus on ways to reduce physical
punishment, including providing information on alterative discipline
strategies, such as use of positive reinforcement for good behaviors, they
The researchers noted the study found an association, and not a cause-effect
link. In addition, the study was limited in that participants were asked to
remember their childhood experiences, which may not be entirely accurate,
although research suggests people can remember negative events in childhood
The study is published today (July 2, 2012) in the journal Pediatrics.
Pass it on: Reducing physical punishment may decrease the percentage of
people who suffer from mental disorders.
The findings of this research study support the premise that early-childhood
trauma can promote significant psychological
wounds ("mental disorders").
A major implication is that typical caregiving
adults don't know this or are indifferent to it.
Intuitively, the percentages quoted ("2 to 7 percent") are far
lower than if the study questions had included childhood abandonment.
neglect, and abuse. They're also probably under-reported because of
protective denial, numbing, and repression of early-childhood parental
"Physical punishment" is a surface issue. The underlying problem
is any parenting practice that shames a young child,
raises their anxiety and distrust, and implies that the way to
solve relationship problems is through causing physical and
The reported results are misleading because they infer that parental
"physical punishment" promotes later "mental health problems" by itself
The unseen real causes are psychologically-
wounded, unaware parents who create a
+ public indifference to this toxic cultural
offers more insight on the cycle and proposes
practical ways that family adults can