Effects of corporal punishment last a lifetime


How a child is disciplined has a lasting effect on his or her life.

As any parent knows, discipline is one of the most important things required for a child's well-being. It is one of those things, like nutrition and safety, that not only keeps the child safe and happy today but also gives him or her a lifetime of ability and functionality.

Without discipline, a child likely becomes wild, self-centered, unmotivated and dysfunctional. Too much discipline, however, can be even worse, creating an over-emotional (or even emotionless) train wreck. The balance is somewhere between.

Lasting effects of physical punishment

A recent study found that the still-popular method of discipline, corporal punishment – physically striking the child, usually through spanking – may have more than just lasting psychological effects on the child and the person he or she becomes in adulthood – even when that physical punishment was not abuse.

Researchers publishing in the journal Pediatrics found that adults who were not punished physically as children were less likely to have heart disease and weight problems than those who were. Adults who were physically punished, but not abused, were 24 percent more likely to be obese, 35 percent more likely to have arthritis, and significantly more likely to have heart disease than their counterparts who were not physically disciplined.

Not just psychological

Most of us are aware that research into the physical punishment of children has found that it often leads to more aggressive behavior as well as higher rates of mental disorders, delinquency and more.

This new research suggests that it may have physical connotations as well – likely as a result of increased stress in childhood due to the corporal punishment being used. It should be noted that the rates of increase for children receiving corporal punishment versus those who are physically abused is significantly lower.

This particular study did not differentiate between mild abuse and corporal punishment as it was based on survey responses and was not focused on quantifying the abuse itself. Many participants, therefore, may have been abused, though not severely, by adults in their homes. Instead, the study focused on whether or not the persons surveyed were physically punished (spanking, grabbing, shoving, etc.) as a child with non-injurious and common forms of corporal punishment.

Data were collected through the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions for 2004 to 2005 from 34,226 U.S. adults.

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