Spanking linked to mental and personality disorders

A new study provides scary insight into the correlation between spanking and mental health issues later in your child's life.

Photo: mizikm/iStockphoto

Spanking your child is a serious no-no and the fastest way to get yourself booted from a playgroup. But now there’s even more reason to keep your cool when your child throws a tantrum in the middle of the grocery aisle: spanking has been linked to mental disorders later in life.

According to The Globe and Mail, a new study “found that children who said they were spanked were 1.4 times more likely to suffer from depression, 1.98 times more likely to have an antisocial disorder and 2.31 times more likely to have a schizotypal personality disorder.”

It’s hard news for any parent who’s ever lost it and swatted their child. Bring on even more guilt and shame.

While the report doesn’t show spanking causes mental disorders, it concludes there’s a direct correlation. Tracie Afifi, lead author of the study and assistant professor of community health sciences at the University of Manitoba, says the findings, which were based on U.S. date because similar data is not available in Canada,“ send a strong message that spanking should never be used on a child.”

Spanking is illegal in 32 countries. But in Canada, it’s actually sanctioned under Section 43 of the Criminal Code (dubbed the “spanking law”), provided reasonable force is used by a parent on a child aged two to 12. Though the act of spanking isn’t illegal in our country, this new research may curtail more parents from using physical punishment.

But there’s a flip side to this, as The Globe and Mail points out. These new findings make it even harder for parents to honestly discuss their experiences disciplining their children with spanking.

Catherine Connors, who writes the blog Her Bad Mother, tells The Globe and Mail: “It’s difficult to talk about spanking openly because it’s demonized. When I wrote a blog [post] about spanking my child, some people said I was a child abuser and threatened to call the police.” She believes that more people resort to spanking than readily admit it.

In fact, a Strategic Counsel poll done in 2007 for The Globe and Mail found that 78 percent of Canadian parents of children under 18 believed parents don’t discipline their children enough. And 42 percent believed spanking is beneficial to a child’s development.

Psychotherapist and parenting expert Alyson Schafer asks an interesting question in the Globe and Mail article: “What kind of mixed message are we sending them when we say ‘hands are for hugging, not hitting’ and ask them to tell us if anyone hits, but then use force as parents?”

So what do you think, is spanking ever alright? Are you nervous to admit to spanking your child?

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