ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Spanking can leave an indelible mark on a child well into adulthood, raising one’s risk for battling depression or substance abuse, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Michigan looked at data on over 8,300 adults of all ages who had participated in the CDC-Kaiser ACE study, which asked them about their childhood experiences, including their household composition and how often they were physically or emotionally reprimanded.

Little boy hiding on couch
Spanking a child may help curb bad behavior, but it also raises the chances of the child battling depression or substance abuse as an adult, a new study finds.

Participants also completed self-reports while undergoing routine checkups at an outpatient clinic, all of which helped the researchers in determining whether spanking was an “adverse childhood experience” akin to divorce or having an incarcerated relative.

Fifty-five percent of the study’s participants said that they were subjected to spanking as an adolescent, with men more likely to report such abuse than women, the researchers found.

In addition, minority respondents — excluding Asians — were more likely than whites to report having been spanked.

Overall, those who indicated they had been physically or emotionally reprimanded during adolescence were more likely than their peers to feel depressed, attempt suicide, drink heavily, or use illicit substances as an adult.

“Placing spanking in a similar category to physical/emotional abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems,” argues researcher Andrew Grogan-Kaylor in a university media release.

Fortunately, new or prospective parents can be taught effective childrearing methods before more detrimental ones result in long-lasting trauma, the researchers say.

“This can be achieved by promoting evidence-based parenting programs and policies designed to prevent early adversities, and associated risk factors,” explains researcher Shawna Lee. “Prevention should be a critical direction for public health initiatives to take.”

The study’s findings were published in the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

About Daniel Steingold

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  1. Goldenpuff2 says:

    Then how come since we have all stopped spanking our children are still happily abusing drugs, absolutely waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more violent, bullying kids literally to death, enjoy taking video of someone getting the crap beaten out of them rather than help the guy, etc., etc., etc. Sorry but my brother and I both were spanked – and we deserved it. It taught us respect. Neither my brother nor I have ever laid a hand on another person and we are in our 60’s now. Sure seems to me since we stopped spanking kids, the brats have taken over. I am not alone in this thinking either.

  2. verheek says:

    I don’t buy it because there is no discussion of degrees of force or which objects are used or other factors that would be involved and combined like overall relationship quality with the child.

  3. cjbasye says:

    This article omits so much detail. Yes, children can be abused just as anyone or any group can be abused, but when I was a kid, kids were taught respect for authority in many ways; they were also spanked by parents, grandparents, teachers, and anyone who cared about or loved them. My parents spanked me when I needed it, and I thought twice about disrespecting any authority, not just my parents. They also used other methods as I got older, such as “grounding”, or apologizing (written and verbal) for offenses. I was stubborn and determined, but they were gradually able to mold me into a productive teen. I’m grateful to my parents and loved them so much even as a teenager.