Childhood Spanking Could Heighten Adult Mental Health Woes

From Drugs.com - November 9, 2017

Childhood Spanking Could Heighten Adult Mental Health Woes

THURSDAY, Nov. 9, 2017 -- Adults who were spanked as kids may face heightened risk of certain mental health problems, a new study suggests.

The study found that those who were spanked were more likely to have abused drugs or attempted suicide.

And that was with other factors -- including more severe physical or emotional abuse -- taken into account.

The findings do not prove that spanking, per se, led to adulthood mental health issues, said Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, one of the researchers.

But the study is far from the first to suggest spanking can have long-term consequences.

For years, numerous studies have linked spanking to negative effects on children's mental health, as well as adults', said Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor of social work at the University of Michigan.

There may still be a cultural debate over the merits of spanking, he noted. But as far as research goes, there's plenty of evidence tying spanking to negative effects.

"And there's almost no literature suggesting spanking has positive effects," Grogan-Kaylor added.

The findings, published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect, are based on survey responses from over 8,300 California adults.

Overall, 55 percent said that as children, they were spanked at least a few times a year.

And those people were 37 percent more likely to say they'd ever attempted suicide, versus adults who'd never been spanked as kids. They were also one-third more likely to have abused drugs, and 23 percent more likely to drink in "moderate to heavy" amounts.

Of course, Grogan-Kaylor said, it's difficult to weed out the effects of spanking from the rest of a person's childhood environment.

But the link between spanking and mental health issues held up even after the researchers weighed some other factors -- such as people's education level and race.

Adults who'd suffered physical and emotional abuse as kids also had more mental health problems. But that did not explain the risk connected to spanking, the study found.

"There does seem to be a unique effect of spanking," Grogan-Kaylor said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long advised against spanking, citing a range of reasons. Among them: Repeated spanking can teach children that aggression is the solution to conflicts, and may worsen any behavioral issues.


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