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Getting Spanked as a Child Increases Your Risk of Mental Illness as an Adult

Canadian researchers say getting spanked as a child increases your risk of developing a mental illness as an adult.

Basing their findings on a questionnaire study of more than 35 000 American adults, the researchers say that harsh physical punishment (spankings, slaps, pushing and shoving etc.) cause an increased risk of future mental illness, even when parents only sometimes administer such punishments and when such punishments are not so severe to qualify as abuse.

Both boys and girls experienced an increased risk of future mental illness after corporal punishment and the effect was not related to existing mental illness or dysfunction in the family.

According to the research, receiving harsh physical punishment as a child increases your risk of:

  • Schizotypal personality disorders by 7.2%
  • Antisocial personality disorder by 5.5%
  • Mania by 5.2%
  • Narcissistic personality disorder by 4.7%
  • Borderline personality disorder by 4.6%
  • Alcohol dependence by 3.4%
  • Drug dependence by 3%

Although corporal punishment of children is illegal in 30 countries it remains legal in both the US and Canada.

Based on the results of the study, the researchers urge pediatricians to counsel parents still using corporal punishment on more effective and less risky disciplinary practices – a recommendation which does not conflict with the American Academy of Pediatricians’ policy statement which advises that children not be hit at any time, for any reason.

They also suggest that given the link between corporal punishment and future mental illness, public health polices which discouraged the use of harsh physical punishments could do a lot to reduce the burden of mental illness in society.

The full research findings are published in Pediatrics.

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