Being Hit As a Child Linked To Adult Mental Illness

By Amir Khan on July 2, 2012 9:35 AM EDT

Children
Children who are hit or spanked as a child often develop mental illnesses as adults, according to a new study (Photo: Creative Commons)

Children who are hit or spanked as a child often develop mental illnesses as adults, according to a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics on Monday. Researchers found the children are more likely to develop mood or anxiety disorders and drug or alcohol abuse.

"There is a significant link between the two," says Tracie Afifi, lead author of the study  and an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Canada, told USA Today. "Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders."

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Researchers analyzed data from over 35,000 people and found that over 1,300 reported experiencing physical punishment as children, which includes pushing, grabbing, shoving or slapping by a parent or other adult in the house. Between 2 percent and 7 percent of those who were hit developed a mental illness, according to the study.

Afifi said the study proves that ""physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age."

However, Robert Larzelere, a psychologist at Oklahoma State University, Stillwater, said spanking is beneficial if used properly.

"Certainly, overly severe physical punishment is going to have adverse effects on children," he told USA Today. "But for younger kids, if spanking is used in the most appropriate way and the child perceives it as being motivated by concern for their behavior and welfare, then I don't think it has a detrimental effect."

He criticized the study for relying on participant's memory, which is not always accurate. He also said the study only shows correlation, not causation.

"It does nothing to move beyond correlations to figure out what is actually causing the mental health problems," he said. "The motivation that the child perceives and when and how and why the parent uses (spanking) makes a big difference. All of that is more important than whether it was used or not."

Afifi said she understands it's difficult to change people's mind on the topics, but told USA Today that "we're confident of the reliability of our data, and the data strongly indicate that physical punishment should not be used on children - at any age. And it's important for parents to be aware of that."

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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