Spanking Linked to Mental Illness, Says Study

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kidsAlthough the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly discourages spanking, at leasthalf of parents admit to physically punishing their children. Some research suggests that as many as 70-90 percent of mothers have resorted to spanking at one time or another. Anew study published in the journal Pediatrics may cause parents to think more carefully before laying a hand on their little ones.

Researchers examined data from more than 34,000 adults and found that being spanked significantly increased the risk of developing mental health issues as adults. According to their results, corporal punishment is associated with mood disorders, including depression and anxiety, as well as personality disorders and alcohol and drug abuse. They estimate that as much as 7 percent of adult mental illness may be attributable to childhood physical punishment, including slapping, shoving, grabbing, and hitting. The study reports that spanking ups the risk of major depression by 41 percent, alcohol and drug abuse by 59 percent, and mania by 93 percent, among other findings.

“We’re not talking about just a tap on the bum,” study author Tracie Afifi, PhD, of the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, explained in a statement. “We were looking at people who used physical punishment as a regular means to discipline their children.” However, the analysis excluded individuals who reported more severe maltreatment such as physical abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, or exposure to intimate partner violence.

“It definitely points to the direction that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age,” said Afifi. Researchers concluded, “It is important for pediatricians and other healthcare providers who work with children and parents to be aware of the link between physical punishment and mental disorders.”

The physical punishment of children is legal in the United States, although it is banned in at least 24 other countries. It’s worth noting that 19 states also allow corporal punishment in schools. Earlier studies have linked spanking toddlers to increased aggression in older children. Spare the rod, spare the child?


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  1. Very accurate. Very scary for a kid and a very fractured id as a result. This for those of you who have not gone to psychology in college is your ability to decypher reality. The Id is essential and if you want your kids to have a good id, take them to the zoo.

  2. There are various forms of child abuse. The greatest harm is done if a child is the victim of sexual abuse. Physical abuse is harmful as well. Emotional abuse less so, but it depends on what previous traumas the child has been through. Constant emotional abuse via marginalization, ignoring, undermining, mocking, slander, threats or intimidation to an already vulnerable person who has endured previous can lead to self harm and suicide at worst. On any scale of harm however, in most cases emotional abuse does not inflict the same long lasting traumatic conditioning that physical and especially sexual abuse does. So people should keep things in perspective.
    (Probably the best cinematic depiction of how debilitating severe emotional abuse can be is what happens to Private Pyle in Kubrik’s “Full Metal Jacket”.)

    A mild retort to a child on scale out of 100 of potential damage rates about 2/100, whilst being the victim of rape is 100.

  3. Maybe those who are prone to mental illness behave badly, thus encouraging their parents to hit them. So the hitting is not the cause of the mental illness, rather the mental illness is causing the hitting.

  4. This headline is erroneous and, well, false. The study specifically says that a spank is not what they are talking about. I hope Matzav did not write this headline as it is patently false and misleading.

  5. it doesn’t sound like spanking is the problem in the study, it sounds like beating and abusing children is the cause. Letting children do what they want is more likely to get them to go on drugs etc.

  6. Liberal academic research is nothing compared to the Torah. The pasuk in the Torah tells us, and Shulchan Aruch paskens l’halacha, that a parent should hit his child when necessary.

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