A study released by Canadian researchers in the American journal Pediatrics says harsh corporal punishment can lead to an increased risk of mental and personality disorders later in life.
The study looked at 34,000 non-institutionalized individuals between 2004 and 2005, and found an association between people that were subject to serious (though not so serious as to be classified as abusive) physical punishment as children, and illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and alcoholism later in life. Spanking was included in the criteria.
This study and its claims are being used as support for parents on both sides of the spanking debate.
The anti-spankers are hailing it as more proof that you should not raise a child by raising a hand, and the pro- (or at least, ok-with-) spankers are calling the study nebulous while hauling out old gems like, “I was spanked and I turned out fine,” or, “Kids these days have no respect,” to solidify their positions.
And while this study may indeed be added to a growing pile of evidence to substantiate the proof—or lack thereof—that spanking children is not only morally wrong, but harmful, it doesn’t sway me much.
My anti-spanking stance was set long before I read of this study. Long before I even had children of my own.
I have never raised a hand to my children. I never will. Not in anger, not after a period of deep reflection, not as a first or a last resort. And truth be told, it saddens me when I hear that other parents would.
My position is based partly on personal experience and partly on my pacifistic belief that a person—especially a person in a position of power—should not inflict physical or mental pain on another person.
I understand the impulse, trust me, I do. As a parent, we are tried and tested. My little ones have pushed me to my brink of patience, and I fully expect to be pushed even further at some point.
But I reject fully the notion that spanking actually corrects any behaviour in the long term, or that it does anything to strengthen a child’s relationship with a parent. I don’t pander to my children, and they are well aware of the acceptable boundaries of their behaviour. There are consequences if they traverse those boundaries, but they never include hitting. And I have good kids. I really, really do.
I don’t know if an occasional spank on the bottom can be blamed as sole cause for depression later in life, but why chance it when there are so many alternatives?
In our house, we will continue to discipline with an open mind and open arms, rather than an open hand.
Karen Green recently traded life in the biggest city in Canada for life in the biggest cornfield in Canada. Freed from her full-time job as a writer and editor, Karen now spends her time…writing and editing. And frolicking in the leaves with her two small girls. Karen is a speaker, the founder of Mom The Vote and the author of the blog, The Kids Are Alright, where she has been writing about the humorous and poignant moments of family life since 2005.