Spanking can cause mental health problems in children, study suggests
AUSTIN, Texas — A new study suggests spanking can cause children to defy their parents more frequently and can also result in lifelong mental health issues.
The study, conducted by experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, says spanking can cause permanent social and developmental problems.
The study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at over 160,000 children over a 50-year period.
The study defines spanking as: “An open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.”
As the frequency of spanking increases, the likelihood of anti-social behavior, mental health issues, and aggression also increases, according to the results of the study.
Children who were spanked were also more likely to support physical punishment of their own children.
“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” study author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a news release. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes, and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”
According to a 2014 UNICEF report, as many as 80 percent of parents across the world admit to spanking their children.
“Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do,” co-author Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, said in the news release.
Researchers said there’s no evidence that shows spanking has any positive effect on a child’s behavior or development, and that outcomes from spanking can be compared to physical abuse.
“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” she says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”