Our Nanny Overlords would like you to know that spanking your kid can cause mood disorders or worse.
Yahoo! blogger Sarah B. Weir must have been spanked as a child. Her headline and leading paragraphs are obviously designed to make mom’s freak out if they paddled their little snowflake for something at one time or another. Ms. Weir, calm yourself – this study is crap and inherently flawed. Their sample is small and their data is almost 10 years old. It is not unlike the studies on salt, sunscreen and sugar that were poorly disseminated by folks like you and such reporting has caused more health problems than the original studies found.
I don’t advocate spanking your kid for every other thing they do, but once in a while every kid does something worthy of one. Ultimately, the parent knows their kid and knows what deters and what doesn’t. I wonder if the authors did a test of their theory and surveyed kids who didn’t get spanked.
Here’s the headline (really???) with some excerpts and commentary.
Although the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) strongly discourages spanking, at least half 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. A new study published in the journal Pediatricsmay 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.
Now, go read this “study” here. From the very opening in the background, the bias of the authors of this study is clear.
The use of physical punishment is controversial. Few
studies have examined the relationship between physical punishment and a wide range of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample.
They don’t like corporal punishment and are going to make sure the reader knows how awful the US is for allowing it right off the bat:
Physical punishment (also referred to
as spanking, smacking, and corporal
punishment) involves acts of hitting a
child as a means of discipline. The parent
or caregiver’s right to use physical punishment
has currently been abolished in
32 nations; Canada and the United States
are not included among these countries.
Right after that, they single out Southern moms, because everyone can buy the stereotype Southerners are stupid rednecks, right?:
In a US sample of the Carolinas, for example,
46% of mothers reported slapping or
spanking in the past year
It gets better, they make the assertion that parents who spank probably are mentally ill or at least emotionally disturbed to begin with:
poor parental mental health may
be a possible confounding factor requiring
statistical adjustment in the relationship
between physical punishment
and mental disorders. Lower levels of
parental emotional well-being have been
associated with an increased likelihood
of spanking young children, and parental
mental disorders may increase
the likelihood of mental disorders among
The assessment of physical punishment was an all in one question, which of course will garner responses of a higher degree of occurrence since the respondent is having to tally multiple types of interaction over the course of their childhood memories. The memories we have as adults of childhood themselves are also faulty means of recording ‘data’ in and of themselves:
Physical punishment was assessed
with the question, “As a child how often
were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved,
slapped or hit by your parents or any
adult living in your house?”
Following that paragraph, we get where they are singling out corporal punishment and where their rationale is coming from. “Sometimes” = the kid is being severely physically punished in response to the laundry list we just mentioned.
Respondents who reported
an answer of “sometimes”
or greater to this event were considered
as having experienced harsh physical
punishment. The term harsh physical
punishment was used for this study
because the measure includes acts of
physical force beyond slapping, which
some may consider more severe than
“customary” physical punishment (ie,
spanking). Furthermore, to ensure that
physical punishment was considered
in the absence of more severe child
maltreatment, respondents who endorsed
severe physical abuse, sexual
abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect,
emotional neglect, or exposure
to intimate partner violence were excluded
from the current sample.
One last section:
Second, data on
harsh physical punishment and child
maltreatment were collected retrospectively,
which may introduce some
sampling error due to recall and reporting
bias. However, there is evidence that
supports the validity of accurate recall
of adverse childhood events.
the measure of parental psychopathology
relied on the respondent’s retrospective
recall and understanding of
a parent having problems with alcohol
or drugs or being treated or hospitalized
for mental illness.
In other words, their study is biased but they’re going to rationalize it with this other BS study precedent. Oh and the memories of what your parents were like are scientific enough for us. They’re also going to ignore that a lot of disorders they claim are the result of physical punishment often have an organic and/or chemical imbalance component.
Cracking your kid on the rear for every little infraction is stupid in my opinion. On occasion, they do something so monumentally stupid and possibly extremely harmful to themselves or another that a swat on the butt is the primal and direct wake up call that says “HEY STUPID! Don’t do that!” In a nutshell – use moderation and judgement, people. You do have those weapons in your arsenal even though the authors of this study and the government nannies tell you that you don’t and that we can’t just leave it up to parents to decide…