A new study has found that children who are spanked or hit as a form of discipline are linked with an increased risk of mental problems when they reach adulthood, USA Today reported.
The mental issues ranged from anxiety disorders to drug or alcohol abuse, the research showed. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.
According to USA Today, while links have been found between severe forms of childhood abuse and mental illness, this is the first study to find an association between non-abusive physical discipline and mental disorders.
After analyzing data from a government survey of 35,000 U.S. adults who were non-institutionalized, the researchers found that 1,300 of the participants had experienced physical punishment – such as being “pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit” by their parents.
The results showed that about two to seven percent of mental disorders in the study were linked to these types of physical punishment.
Spanking and other physical punishments have been abolished in over 30 nations around the world, but the United States and Canada are not among them, according to the Global Initiative to End all Corporal Punishment.
Tracie Afifi, an assistant professor of epidemiology in the Department of Community Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba, Canada and the study’s lead author, said she hopes to incite change with her research.
“We’re confident of the reliability of our data, and the data strongly indicate that physical punishment should not be used on children — at any age,” Afifi told USA Today. “And it's important for parents to be aware of that."
in light of these findings, an expert from the Cleveland Clinic suggested parents explore different options when it comes to disciplining their children.
"Applying positive reinforcement, so rewarding things for complying with expected behavior," said Dr. Kate Eshelman, a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital. "That could range from a sticker chart for a young child to cell phone minutes for an older child. So, positive reinforcement or removal of privileges."