Childhood Spanking Leads To These Mental Health Problems

55% of people reported childhood spankings, with men more likely to have been spanked than women.

55% of people reported childhood spankings, with men more likely to have been spanked than women.

Childhood spanking can lead to many adult mental health problems, research concludes.

Adults spanked as children are more likely to feel depressed, drink too much, use illegal drugs and attempt suicide.

Dr Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, who led the research, said:

“Placing spanking in a similar category to physical/emotional abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems.”

Childhood spanking research

The study involved over 8,300 people aged 19 to 97.

They were asked how often they endured childhood spankings and whether they were abused in any way.

55 percent reported childhood spankings, with men more likely to have been spanked than women.

Those who were spanked had a higher risk of being depressed as adults, along with increased risk of other mental health problems.

It is important to avoid harsh parenting at all costs, said Dr Shawna Lee, an expert in the effects of child mistreatment:

“This can be achieved by promoting evidence-based parenting programs and policies designed to prevent early adversities, and associated risk factors.

Prevention should be a critical direction for public health initiatives to take.”

The study was published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect (Merrick et al., 2017).


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This site is all about scientific research into how the mind works.

It’s mostly written by psychologist and author, Dr Jeremy Dean.

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Author: Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book "Making Habits, Breaking Habits" (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks.