Spanking And Obesity: Physical Punishment Of Children Makes Them Into Overweight Adults, Study Suggests

By iScienceTimes Staff on July 15, 2013 3:53 PM EDT

childhood spanking
Childhood spanking may be linked to adult obesity, a new study from the University of Manitoba suggests. (Photo: Flickr: bibbit)

Spanking and obesity are linked, says a new study that shows that aggression towards children could be setting them up for a host of health problems down the line.

"This is one study that adds to a growing area of research that all has consistent findings that physical punishment is associated with negative mental and now physical (health) outcomes," said Tracie Afifi, who led the study at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.

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Afifi and her colleagues analyzed data that had been collected in 2004 as part of a government health study in the U.S. In the 2004 study, more than 34,000 adults were asked whether they had been harshly punished as children, which the study defined as being hit, slapped and pushed, either occasionally or frequently.     

The study found that 31 percent of adults who said they were harshly punished as children were obese; 26 percent of obese respondents said they were not harshly punished as children. Obese adults who were spanked or abused as children were 25 percent more likely to have arthritis, and they were also 28 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease.

While those figures aren't overwhelming, Afifi said that it's part of a growing body of research that shows that physical abuse causes health problems.

"It's an association. We can't say the punishment is causing the physical health problems," said Afifi, who added that a number of other studies have linked spanking and physical punishment to things like aggressiveness and emotional disturbances. 

Rachel Berger, a child-abuse expert from the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, who wasn't involved in the study, agreed that spanking and physical punishment can do harm in the long run. 

"There's a tremendous and growing literature showing that corporal punishment is not necessary, and that there can be detrimental effects," said Berger.

The spanking obesity study was published in Pediatrics.

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