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Study Warns That Spanking Your Children Can Cause Lifelong Mental Health Issues

Study Warns That Spanking Your Children Can Cause Lifelong Mental Health IssuesIn most parts of Africa physical punishment is a norm. You will find in some cases Parents in Africa using spanking generally in order to reduce undesirable behaviour and increase desirable behaviour in children. In Nigeria and many parts of Africa the story is not different.

“It is very rare to find in our society for a parent not to caution a child without spanking him or her for a wrongful behaviour. When you don’t, your neighbours look at you and say, you are spoiling the child, and vice versa”, Mr. Friday Anjorin, an engineer said.

Another respondent who does not want her name in print is of the view that she does not condone spanking as an act to caution a child. “I do not think spanking a child will necessarily correct him or her. I have seen in some cases spanking a child for bad behaviour will create even more problems as some will see the punishment as excessive. So I think talking to them is advisable,” She said.

But what actually does spanking really mean? According to findings, spanking is an open-handed hit on the behind or extremities. Whether or not parents believe in spanking their kids seems to be somewhat based on the time and place.

However, a new study suggests spanking can cause children to defy their parents more frequently; it can also result in lifelong mental health issues. The study, conducted by experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, USA reveal that spanking can cause permanent social and developmental problems. The study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Family Psychology, looked at over 160,000 children over a 50-year period.

The study narrates further that as the frequency of spanking increases, the likelihood of anti-social behaviour, mental health issues, and aggression also increases, according to the results of the study. Children who were spanked were also more likely to support physical punishment of their own children.

In another related development, researchers at the University of Missouri found that physical discipline experienced during infancy can negatively impact temperament and behaviour among children in the fifth grade and into their teenage years.

“Long-term studies on the links among parenting, temperament and children’s social behaviours have been limited, especially among racially diverse, low-income populations,” said Gustavo Carlo, Millsap Professor of Diversity at MU and director of the MU Centre for Family Policy and Research. “Our findings show that differences exist in the roles of parenting, temperament and self-regulation and how they impact a child’s development.”

Carlo’s team analysed data from 1,840 mothers and children enrolled in the Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project. All participating families were at or below the federal poverty level and identified as either European American or African American. Information was collected when children were approximately 15 months old, 25 months old and in the fifth grade. Researchers used surveys of mothers and children, home visits and interviews with fifth grade teachers to complete the study.

The researchers found that if African-American children experienced severe punishment at 15 months they were more likely to exhibit increased aggressive and delinquent behaviours in the fifth grade. They were also less likely to show positive behaviours, such as helping others. No link was found between punishment and negative emotions for European-American children. Instead, among European- American children, negative emotions, such as irritability, predicted such outcomes. For both groups, good self-regulation predicted better behavioural outcomes.

Also, other findings show how parents treat their children at a young age particularly African-American children .They find that this significantly impacts their behaviour,”

Experts are of the view that it is very important that parents refrain from physical punishment as it can have long-lasting impacts. If we want to nurture positive behaviours, all parents should teach a child how to regulate their behaviours early.

Gabriel Ifinnwa



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