Parents often find spanking their children the easiest way to punish them or for the desired correction in them. However, this common form of corporal punishment might not be the correct way to discipline them and may lead to uncalled-for consequences, says a recent study.
As the United States observes the 11th Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day on May 5, it becomes imperative for us to share the detrimental effects of spanking on the lives of children. With the theme “Finding Help, Finding Hope” for 2016 Awareness Day, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) aims to explore strategies for improving access to behavioral health services and support for children, and young adults with mental and substance use disorders and their families.
Spanking may give rise to mental health disorders
Spanking might cause long-term harm in children that overshadows the short-term obedience displayed due to physical force. A research spanning five decades at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan confirms that spanking can give rise to defiant children who have increased anti-social behavior, aggression, mental health disorders and cognitive impairment.
The study defined spanking as “an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities,” and is a common method of physical punishment that parents use. However, the study says that it exactly does the opposite of what parents generally desire.
The previous studies on the issue were mostly generic as they covered all kinds of punishments, including spanking. But the researchers of this meta-analysis claim that this is the only study that highlights the comprehensive outcomes related to spanking only. Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at the University of Texas, said, “Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors.”
Spanking ups chances of defiance in children
The meta-analysis, published in the Journal of Family Psychology in April 2016, reviewed a wide range of studies to examine the long-term effects of spanking on adults that were spanked as a child. The researchers found that the more they were spanked, the higher was the likelihood to develop a defiant behavior. They were also prone to mental health disorders, symptoms of which might occur in later life.
Spanking also makes children believe that it is an acceptable form of physical punishment and they are more likely to use it on their children. This highlights how an attitude towards physical punishment, such as spanking, is passed from generation to generation.
Of the 17 outcomes examined, Gershoff and co-author Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, found that 13 of the outcomes were significantly linked with spanking which were adverse in nature.
Gershoff said, “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”
Spanking can impair a child’s cognitive development
Across all types of studies that were examined, including longitudinal or experimental designs that used the toughest methodologies, it showed that spanking produced a negative effect on a child’s behavior and cognitive development.
According to a 2014 UNICEF report, around 80 percent of people across the world spanked their children. People think that spanking and abuse are two separate behaviors with different outcomes. However, the research showed that spanking yields the same detrimental effects as abuse, just to a lesser degree.
The researchers hoped that their study would educate parents about the harms of spanking and urged them to use strict but non-harmful forms of discipline that can build positivity within their children rather than long-term impairments.
Nurturing a healthy childhood
It is true that parents have to be firm at times to teach a good code of conduct to children. However, spanking is certainly not the way. One can teach them discipline through words and actions that are not violent or have any adverse effects on the mental health or behavior of a child.
Though not all parents spank their kids to discipline them, but it has been the practice since ages. And, if the damage has already been done, living with a mental problem could be even more dangerous. If need be, there shouldn’t be any hesitation in visiting any of the good mental health centers in your neighborhood.
This Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day, the Sovereign Mental Health Services pledges to continue providing the most effective mental health treatments to children to make their life meaningful and worth living. If your child is facing any form of mental health issue, contact our treatment advisors at 866-954-0529 for information or visit any of our mental health facilities.