World Bulletin / News Desk
People who remember being pushed, slapped and hit as children are more likely tobe diagnosed with Depression, anxiety and personality disorders later in life, according to an international study covering thousands of people.
Canadian researchers whose results were published in the journal Pediatrics estimated that between two and seven percent of those mental disorders might be due to punishments inflicted in childhood, not including more severe forms of abuse.
"People believe that as long as you don't cross that line into child maltreatment, and the physical punishment is controlled and doesn't cross the line into abuse, it won't have any negative long-term consequences for the child," said study leader Tracie Afifi at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
"The way we see it is along a continuum of having no violence to severe violence," Afifi said.
Up to half of all children may be spanked as punishment, but Afifi and her team wanted to look at harsher punishments, such as shoving and hitting.
The study team used data collected by United States Census interviewers in 2004 and 2005 in surveys of close to 35,000 adults across the country.
The interviewers asked participants about how often they were physically punished as kids, other problems their families had - such as parents who had drug problems or went to jail - and about their symptoms of mental disorders, current or past.
Afifi and her colleagues didn't include anyone who reported being physically, sexually or emotionally abused by family members in order to focus on the effect of punishment that didn't go so far as toconstitute maltreatment.
They found about six percent of interview subjects had been punished beyond spanking "sometimes," "fairly often" or "very often" - and those people with a history of harsh physical punishment were more likely to have a range of mood and personality disorders or to abuse drugs and alcohol.
For example, 20 percent of people who remembered being physically punished had been depressed and 43 percent had abused alcohol at some point. That compared to 16 percent of people who weren't hit or slapped who had been depressed and 30 percent who drank too much.
Those links held up after the researchers took into account family problems, including which participants' parents had been treated for mental illness themselves - and interviewees' race, income and education level.
Afifi and her team wrote that physical punishment may lead to chronic stress in children, which could then increase their chance of developing Depression or anxiety later on.
Michele Knox, a psychiatrist who studies family and youth violence at the University of Toledo College of Medicine, agreed that's a likely explanation.
"Physical punishment is a chronic and sometimes repeated stressor for young people, and we know that chronic and repeated stressors have a negative impact on the brain," said Knox, who wasn't part of the study.
But the findings can't prove the punishments themselves caused the children to develop mood and personality disorders, with Knox pointing out that interviewees may not have known if their parents were treated for mental illness. Depression and anxiety are known to be at least partly genetic.
Students in a private Australian high school have recreated a malaria drug in the school laboratory
2 studies claim psilocybin, outlawed by federal government, could significantly improve patients’ mood
Global crises changing nature of hotel industry, expert warns Mediterranean Week of Economic Leaders conference
Fighting climate change means different things in different cities, as this snapshot illustrates:
The Paris deal, now in force, calls for capping global warming at two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels, and at 1.5 C (2.7 F) if possible.
British MPs voted in February to allow the creation of in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) babies with DNA from three people.
The H5N6 virus was first confirmed on November 18 at a farm in central South Korea and it has since spread to farms around the country, with the total number of cases now standing at 46.
It is one of the biggest clinical trials involving the disease ever undertaken and has revived hopes in the scientific community of a breakthrough in the battle against AIDS.
Nuclear energy: who's advancing and who's retreating
A killer bird flu that is sweeping Europe has forced Sweden to cull more than 200,000 chickens
Study finds blood of old mice makes young mice feeble; scientists hope to discover more in human trials soon
Drug overdoses are now killing more Americans than car crashes, putting the sheer scale of the crisis into perspective.
The idea of clean air, potable water and healthy food free from heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants as a human right emerged in the mid-1970s.
60 percent of all Kenyans have never been tested for disease, says report
Average temperatures for the year were set to hit about 1.2 Celsius (2.16 degrees Fahrenheit) over pre-Industrial Revolution levels -- meaning that 16 of the 17 hottest years on record were this century, said the UN's World Meteorological Organization (WMO).