Can Spanking Lead to Addiction?

By Gabrielle Wuhl 07/03/12

Spanking your kids may put them at an increased risk of mental disorders and addiction later on, a new study reveals.

A future addict? Photo via

Spanking, slapping or hitting your kids may increase their risk of developing substance dependence or abuse and other mental disorders in adulthood, according to a recent study from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. Researchers noted that the relationship between child abuse and mental disorders in adulthood has been well-established, but the effects of milder forms of punishments—like spanking—have long been disputed. This study, led by Dr. Tracie Afifi, was adjusted so as to exclude any victims of full-blown abuse or neglect—ultimately narrowing down to a pool of 20,607 random participants from a range of backgrounds. Participants were asked: "as a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?" Of the study participants, 5.9% reported physical punishment—they were dispropotionately likely to be black males with a history of family disfunction. The findings revealed that those who had been spanked as a child were at a 59% higher risk of alcohol abuse or dependence, and a 53% higher risk of drug abuse or dependence; they were also at a greater risk for major depression, mania and anxiety and mood disorders. According to Afifi and colleagues, the findings "prove evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders."

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