Those who were spanked as children may take a real hit later in life, according to new research. Lead author Tracie Afifi suggests that spanking can cause children to have mood and anxiety disorders and suffer from drug and alcohol abuse. The study appears in Pediatrics.
“There is a significant link between the two,” says Afifi. “Individuals who are physically punished have an increased likelihood of having mental health disorders.” Afifi advises parents that any sort of physical punishment “should not be used on any child, at any age.”
But not everyone in the academic community agrees. Robert Larzelere, a psychologist at Oklahoma State University says, “Certainly, overly severe physical punishment is going to have adverse effects on children. 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.”
Larzelere, who published a study in 2005 in defense of spanking, believes the latest study doesn’t actually prove what it claims. “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.”
Spanking is illegal in 32 countries.