Study suggests spanking children causes mental health problems as adults

Photo courtesy: erizof / MGN

(WVLT) -- A study published in September 2017 in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect found that spanking in childhood could be related to mental health problems as adults.

According to the study, research found spanking was associated with increased odds of suicide attempts, moderate to heavy drinking and the use of street drugs in adults "over and above experiencing physical and emotional abuse."

Researchers said spanking "is empirically similar to physical and emotional abuse," and the the study concluded that spanking should be classified as an Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE).

Other examples of currently classified ACEs include maltreatment such as physical and emotional abuse, sexual abuse, physical and emotional neglect, or household challenges, such as parental divorce or separation, parental incarceration or a household member with substance abuse problems, mental illness or suicidal tendencies.

The study reported that a majority of adults said they experienced at least one ACE in their lifetime.

Researchers found that though the practice of spanking is "common, normative and legal in North America," the practice has been previously found to be harmful and was actually banned in 51 countries or areas worldwide.

The study defined spanking as "the use of physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correcting or controlling the child's behavior." It also cited "numerous studies over the past 20 years" that found spanking was associated with adulthood mental health problems, such as depression, personality disorder, suicidal tendencies and substance abuse. The study did, however, clarify that some previous studies were limited in their findings.

Researchers found there were no studies that gave evidence of spanking enhancing children's physical and mental development.