'Corporal punishment can lead to drug abuse'

Canadian study shows children who are hit are at increased risk of long series of psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

July 18, 2012 05:45
2 minute read.
Parent and child

Parent and child. (photo credit: Thinkstock)


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Children who are hit are at increased risk of a long series of psychological and psychiatric disorders in adulthood including drug and alcohol abuse, according to a study published this month in the journal Pediatrics.

The Canadian study was used on Tuesday by the director of the National Council for the Child, Dr. Yitzhak Kadman, to warn parents and teachers not to punish children physically.

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Kadman said the research provides backing for the council’s long struggle to terminate corporal punishment against children. Even slaps and other “mild” forms of physical punishment are “not ethical and not educational and [have] destructive results,” he said.

“No parent wants to increase the risk of his child using drugs or alcohol or suffering from mental disorders as a result of his own actions.”

The Canadian research links harsh physical punishment of children and serious psychological and behavioral problems and found that physical punishment and abuse are not separate phenomena but may be connected.

The retrospective study examined over 34,000 adults over the age of 18 in the US and included personal interviews with them. It was the first study in the world, said Kadman, that examined the connection between corporal punishment and various kinds of mental problems in a representative sample.

Men were found to have undergone more corporal punishment than women (59.4 percent compared to 40.6%). Blacks were at higher risk (14.7%) than whites (10.1%) to suffer physical punishment as children. A history of family dysfunction was linked to corporal punishment of children. But there was no connection between family situation (marriage, divorce, single parents) and the prevalence of physical violence against children.

However, women who suffered physical violence as girls were more likely as adults to develop clinical depression, mania, phobias, anxiety attacks and drug and alcohol abuse.

They were also at higher risk of obsessive-compulsive disorder, narcissistic behavior, anti-social behavior and borderline personality disorders, than those who had not been beaten.

The researchers reached the conclusion that it must be stated categorically that corporal punishment should be forbidden as a tool for educating children.

They recommended that alongside the prohibition, parents and teachers be presented with alternate ways to teach children and teach discipline without violence – such as giving positive feedback.

If corporal punishment is regarded as a public heath hazard and is banned, the rate of psychiatric disorders in the general public can be reduced, the researchers concluded.

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