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Spanking Produces Troubled Kids, Study Contends
Date:2/6/2012

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Adding more fuel to the controversial topic of children and spanking, two Canadian child development experts have published a new analysis that warns that physical punishment poses serious risks to a child's long-term development.

In the paper, published online Feb. 6 in CMAJ, the Canadian Medical Association Journal, the authors analyzed two decades of research and concluded that "virtually without exception, these studies found that physical punishment was associated with higher levels of aggression against parents, siblings, peers and spouses."

While studies show that spanking has declined in the United States since the 1970s, many parents still believe it's an acceptable form of punishment. A 2010 University of North Carolina study revealed that nearly 80 percent of preschool children in the United States are spanked.

"Our paper is a prompt to medical professionals to apply the compelling findings of research on physical punishment in their guidance of parents," said co-author Joan Durrant, a child clinical psychologist and professor of family social sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

In addition to the substantial evidence that children who are spanked are more aggressive, the authors note that physical punishment is linked to various mental health problems, including anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse. What's more, recent neuroimaging studies have shown that physical punishment may alter parts of the brain that are linked to performance on IQ tests and increase vulnerability to drug or alcohol dependence, they write.

Many parents are skeptical of published findings on spanking, and question whether the aggressive behavior prompts the spanking, rather than the other way around. But the paper's co-author says researchers have been able to tease this relationship apart.

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