Study finds link between spanking, mental health issues

Donna Mihalik threatens to send her son, Aiden, 3, to his room. The Mihalik family appeared on the ABC show ‘Supernanny’ in 2006. (file photo)

A new study found a strong link between physical punishment and mental disorders.

The findings, published in Pediatrics today, highlighted the long-term effects on children who are slapped, smacked or spanked.

Harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatment is associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse/dependence and personality disorders in a general population sample. These ļ¬ndings inform the ongoing debate around the use of physical punishment and provide evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders.

The report says the “American Academy of Pediatrics strongly opposes striking a child for any reason,” but the results of the study make it even more imperative that doctors discourage this type of punishment.

Here is a look at the study’s findings by the numbers, which were highlighted in the Los Angeles Times.

Adults who were physically reprimanded as children are:

  1. 5.2 percent more likely to develop mania
  2. 3.4 percent more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence
  3. 3 percent more likely to develop drug abuse or dependence
  4. 7.2 percent more likely to be diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorders
  5. 5.5 percent more likely to be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder
  6. 4.7 percent more likely to be diagnosed with a narcissistic personality
  7. 4.6 percent more likely to have a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder

The study recommends using alternate methods of discipline, including positive reinforcement. Researchers believe this could lead to a decrease of mental disorders and substance dependence in the general population.

Read the full study here.

Parents, have you ever spanked? What other strategies do you use to discipline your children?

April Trotter

Editor of Smart. NEPA transplant. Penn State and Shippensburg grad. Kickball and craft beer enthusiast. Collector of cardigans. "Bennie and the Jets" fanatic. Contact me at, at "Smart magazine" on Facebook, @SmartMagPA on Twitter or by phone at 717-771-2030.

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1 Response

  1. July 4, 2012

    […] It was already a bad day for people my age, finding out that being spanked as a child leads to mental health issues. (At my elementary school in Alabama, our principal was allowed to spank. Though I was a goody […]

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