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Study Suggests Punishment as a Child Might be Linked to Mental Disorders Later — How Do You Think Children Should be Disciplined?

Is physical punishment effective? When and how should physical punishment be used?

A study by Canadian researchers suggests that physical punishment endured as a child may result in depression, anxiety and personality disorders later in life. 

According to an article posted on TheStar.com, Canada's largest online news site, researchers estimated between 2 and 7 percent of those mental disorders might be due to punishments inflicted in childhood — punishment that does not including more severe forms of abuse and maltreatment.

The study team used data collected by United States Census interviewers in 2004 and 2005 in surveys of almost 35,000 adults across the country and found about 6 per cent of interview subjects had been punished beyond spanking “sometimes,” “fairly often” or “very often.” Those with a history of harsh physical punishment were more likely to have a range of mood and personality disorders or to abuse drugs and alcohol, the study suggests. 

Up to half of all children may be spanked as punishment, according to researchers, but they wanted to look at what they deemed harsher punishments, such as shoving and hitting.

“People believe that as long as you don’t cross that line into child maltreatment, and the physical punishment is controlled and doesn’t cross the line into abuse, it won’t have any negative long-term consequences for the child,” said Tracie Afifi with the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, who lead the group of researchers. “The way we see it is along a continuum of having no violence to severe violence.”

According to the article, Afifi and her colleagues write in the journal "Pediatrics" that physical punishment may lead to chronic stress in children, which could then increase their chances of developing mental illnesses later in life. 

Michele Knox, a psychiatrist who studies family and youth violence at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, agreed it's likely. 

“Spanking and other forms of corporal punishment have a huge variety of negative outcomes, and almost no positive outcomes," she said, and those negative outcomes include aggressive behavior and delinquency in children. 

While this study has less broad implications, as it estimates just 2 to 7 percent of mental disorders MIGHT BE due to punishment during childhood, what do you think about physical punishment overall? Is it effective? When and how should physical punishment be used? How do you think children should be disciplined? Tell us what you think in comments.

M.K. OSBORNE July 03, 2012 at 10:30 PM
Yes may i have another ! ..... Yes may i have another ! ....... FORWARD 2012
Lynn Bacon July 05, 2012 at 11:32 AM
I cringe when I see studies like this. It is so much more than just spankings - kids all over the world have been spanked for thousands of years without being abused or needing anti-depressants when they grow up. It seems that over the past 20 - 30 years we've been trying to reinvent parenting by doing everything differently than what our parents did. But we're forgetting is to acknowledge and DO the things that that worked well - like having boundaries and a firm set of family values.
Dave Ballard July 05, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Yes, children should have a right to their bodies, but spanking et al. are pretty far down the list from medically unecessary abortion, and we still allow that. Aaaaaaaaaaand... GO!
Kiri Walton July 05, 2012 at 05:32 PM
You need to discipline your children now so they're not a burden on society or "disciplined" by police or the Justice System later. Also, depression and anxiety are not mental disorders, but "mood disorders." But everyone gets depressed and anxious, so I wonder how exactly they say these are linked to discipline as a child.
Deanna Allen July 05, 2012 at 05:40 PM
You can read the full article here: http://www.thestar.com/living/health/article/1220328--hitting-slapping-tied-to-later-mental-disorders.

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