|Photo Source: LA Times " Kids who are spanked or receive other types of physical punishment are more likely to suffer mental health issues as adults, according to a new study. (Bettmann / Corbis / July 2, 2012)"|
According to the LA Times, the study found:
A child who is spanked, slapped, grabbed or shoved as a form of punishment runs a higher risk of becoming an adult who suffers from a wide range of mental and personality disorders, even when that harsh physical punishment was occasional and when the child experienced no more extreme form of violence or abuse at the hands of a parent or caregiver, says a new study.I don't know about you, but I don't consider spanking to include slapping, grabbing or shoving. Those sound more like abuse to me. To me, appropriate spanking happens when the parent is level-headed (not a knee-jerk or angry reaction) and when it is explained. "Son, I love you very much, and it's my job to make sure you understand what is acceptable in this household. The way you spoke so disrespectfully to your mother is not acceptable, and that behavior is why you are receiving this spanking." It sounds ridiculous, but that is the only way that spanking works - when the consequences have been presented before the behavior occurs and when the spanking is done with a level head from someone who genuinely loves their child. I would argue that anything other than that borders on abuse. For these doctors to include slapping, grabbing, or shoving in the same definition of spanking probably helped them conclude that there was an increased link to mental illness.
Exactly How Much More Likely?The study listed several types of mental illness from addiction to schizophrenia. The study showed that those children who were disciplined physically (I will no longer use "spanked" when referring to their data since their definition and my definition are worlds apart) were 2-8% more likely to have some sort of mental illness. So, to be clear, we're not talking about a huge number. This study only focused on 35,000 Americans. I'm not saying this to excuse any sort of behavior that includes slapping, grabbing, or shoving as a form of punishment, but I merely suggest that there could be other factors at play here, and the "increased likelihood" is sometimes within the margin of error.
Everyone Should Spank Their Kids, Right?The doctors reviewing the data from this study also made "a surprising finding" that as an adult's education levels and income levels increased, the more likely it was that they were spanked as a child. So, using the same logic that they use to conclude that spanking causes mental illness, one could easily conclude that "spanking" (or "borderline abusing" according to their definition) your child is more likely to make them wildly successful (again, by typical American capitalist standards). So, why isn't the American Academy of Pediatrics telling everyone to spank their children?
For years now, there has been a push to get all pediatricians to recommend that parents should never spank their children, at any age. Without a study of some academic merit, it was unlikely that all pediatricians would adopt the practice of essentially telling parents (read: source of income) how to discipline their kids. With this study published, those who wish to tell their patients how to discipline their children have the evidence to prove their case, and those who don't want to piss off their source of income can still choose not to share. Until a recommendation to not spank your child is paired with an educational program for alternative forms of discipline, NONE OF THIS MATTERS.
What Does This Mean For You?
Responsible parents who love their children will still choose to spank or not to spank, and people who are irresponsible and don't love their kids will still abuse. Those that choose spanking as a punishment and use it in a responsible way that includes love, logic, and consistency will probably raise successful children. Those that abuse their kids will probably be more likely to cause mental illness in their children. To me, this is a black and white issue where their study took the gray and made it grayer. The study is being used to serve their own interests, and I haven't seen any evidence that not spanking your child decreases their risk of mental illness. Obviously, more research needs to be done in this area before the blanket statement "you should never spank your children" can be made.
If you are a parent that spanks your child, make sure you are pairing it with love, logic (clear boundaries and consequences before the behavior takes place), and consistency. And NEVER, and I mean NEVER, spank while angry. I wouldn't change your parenting method just because of this study, but it might not hurt to evaluate how you do your spanking. Ask yourself the hard questions. Do I ever react quickly and angrily? Do I use too much force? Are the consequences appropriate for the infringement? Am I always disciplining out of love and not frustration or anger? Am I consistent? If you can't answer these questions honestly, then maybe spanking isn't the right choice of discipline for your family.
What do you think about this article? What is your opinion on spanking? Is anyone curious whether I spank my child or not?