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Can Spanking Cause Mental Illness?

Parents often ask me whether spanking is really so bad. After all, they were spanked as kids and they turned out fine. Plus, it’s the only thing that will get their child to listen, they say.

Much research has focused on the effects that severe child abuse can have on a person’s mental well-being. But a new study published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics takes a look at the possible link between mental health disorders and harsh physical punishment in the absence of abuse. The findings may persuade parents not to spank at all.

Researchers from Canada found that physical punishment (such as slapping, hitting, pushing and shoving) — even without child neglect or physical, sexual or emotional abuse — was linked to mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse and personality disorders.

While it may be true that many of today’s parents were spanked as children and are now well-adjusted, previous studies have also shown that those who were spanked are at a higher risk to be depressed; use alcohol; hit their spouse or own children; and engage in violent or criminal behaviors.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Paediatric Society discourage spanking and other forms of physical punishment. It is unlawful in 32 countries — not including the United States or Canada — for parents and other caregivers to use physical punishment against children.

The new study’s lead author, Tracie Afifi, said she believes that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age and that positive parenting strategies should instead be encouraged.

Preferred methods of discipline do not include physical punishment. For example, withholding privileges, using time-outs and offering consequences (for example, “If you throw your toy and it breaks, you won’t be able to play with it anymore”).

Dr. Howard Bennett, a pediatrician in Washington and clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University School of Medicine, recommends praising children when they are behaving well and using time-outs or a process called “time off,” in which the child must go to another part of the house for as long as it takes to stop the offending behavior and behave normally again.

(Source: Dr. Jennifer Shu, CNNHealth’s Living Well expert doctor, is a practicing pediatrician)

29 Responses

  1. hoRav Shlomo Wolbe ZTKLLH’H clearly held that BiZeman haZeh, it is absolutely Ossur to hit a child, despite whatever was commonly accepted practices in previous generations.

  2. Another bunch of liberal secular academic baloney research.

    The fact of the matter is that NOT spanking a child will cause a lot more than mental illness. The Torah tells us so and Shulchan Aruch paskens l’halacha that a child should be spanked.

  3. You really think CNN is a reliable source of information on raising children. If you check, the author is from a very different culture than our own, and has only managed to have two children (since many people are childless, having two children means you aren’t even at replacement rate and are on the road to extinction).

  4. Chazal with their ruach hakodesh also knew there would be a “BiZeman Hazeh” an they still pasken that one should admonish his child with a potch.

  5. I was much more than spanked when I was little and I can tell you that so help me I will never lay a hand on my children. BH now my mother and I have a strong relationship and she is a great woman, but when I was younger I hated her and did have many issues emotionally because of it. I was smacked, with shoes belts hands whatever else you can think of. I also was a very well behaved child my mother just was somewhat unstable and the same was done to her as a kid. Whoever is going to say hitting your kids is good, you are mistaken. Now a “patch” here and there if lets say a child runs out into the street is a different story but abuse is another.

  6. #1 is absolutely right. Rav Wolbe and Rav Mattisyahu Solomon both say that. #2 although you might think your such a tzaddik by declaring this liberal academa,the results are right on target

  7. a ‘potched’ child will turn on their parents. the ganenets don’t hit the kids, but rather use incredible amounts of positive ‘parenting/teaching’ and get great results!

  8. Frankly, when weighing the opinion of the Torah and Shulchan Aruch’s insistence that we use corporal punishment on our children versus the opinion of liberal academia and anonymous posters that we don’t petch our children, my vote is resoundingly with the pasuk in the Torah and halacha in Shulchan Aruch.

  9. I read a different article on this study earlier today. There findings wer 2-7% with a 3-5% margin of error either way. For the non-mathematically inclined, the study said nothing real one way or the other. There are plenty of other studies for that.

  10. #1, et al:
    I can’t say anything about Rav Solomon shlita, but as far as Rav Wolbe is concerned, that is not what he held at all, not from those who spoke with him and not from reading his sefer.

    Rav Wolbe was against using a potch as a shittah. He was not against the occasional potch when things get out of hand, and he says so clearly in his sefer on chinuch.

  11. Its amazing to see how many people feel so strongly about a professional telling them that they shouldn’t be hitting their own children. If you don’t agree than don’t listen; but the fact that you are getting so defensive shows the true guilt that you have for doing it, and that you are just trying to justify hitting your child in your own mind when you really know its wrong. I can tell you from personal experience that my parents never so much as put a finger on me, and now as an adult I could never have more respect for them.
    Aside from this; all of the rabbonim and sefforim that bring down and hold that you should hit your child, are not talking about when a child is misbehaving or making to much noise, they are talking about a punishment for a true transgression.

  12. Well I was basically beaten up until I was about 15 by my dad I think he’s unstable nd he allways said its how Torah Jews should behave… Basicaly to make a long story short I’m now 20 not frum with a criminal record. No I don’t try to rationalise cause of it but but fact is it deffently shaped me into what I am now! I don’t think this is a point worthy of debate. If u want to …….. Ur kids go ahead if they turn out wrong ul only have tears to cry nd regret it.

  13. Yosef91, your claim that your not frum and have a criminal record seems vastly out of range here. If that’s the case how come you visit this frum site and under a frum name?

  14. Yosef.. I am so sorry for what you went through. I understand what that is like if you read y earlier post, I would never wish it on my children. I agree that a lot of people are acting very defensive here. Do what you want but no child with respect you becaus you are hurting them.

  15. shmoel says:
    July 2, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    Another bunch of liberal secular academic baloney research.

    The fact of the matter is that NOT spanking a child will cause a lot more than mental illness. The Torah tells us so

    where pusak please

  16. All the talk about how hitting does not help. Indeed, sometimes it does not. That’s why there is a parsha of ben sorer u’more in the Torah. They would execute such a fellow.

  17. The sforim that talk about occasionaly patching when necessary all say IT IS PROHIBITED TO DO IT OUT OF ANGER!!!
    So all you big shots so proud of this “frumkeit” of yours, Do you really do it out of self control?
    Most of us who resort to hitting do it out of anger and that is not allowed. It can cause tremendous damage to your children not just phisicaly but emotionally.
    Stop the vicious cycle! Don’t do to your son what your father did to you. You will be a much more affective parent if you develop your self control and not let yourself get swept by your anger.

  18. a well placed spank will save hours of nagging and yelling. but excessive spanking creates just the opposite; it is negative and makes the kid nuts.

    Again, a spank that is not brutal, is good. It tells the kid that he has gone beyond the line of good behaviour. It should be administered with sechel.

    Excessive spanking is negative. It destroys the kid.

    Think what you are doing to your kid.

  19. As a notable rabbi once said, “We owe it to our children to treat them with greater respect than we treat ourselves. Why? We learn by mesorah and if anything is done that prevents the transmission of Torah then we have erred.”
    Most parents I know are releasing anger and frustration out on their children when they spank, hit etc….not true disciplne…Challenge me if you want, I’m just saying what seems to be the stark reality….

  20. No. 1

    So did Rav Yisroel Salanter, Rav Shlomo Parnefsky and other gadolim but there are a few others who hold that corporal punishment is actually m’doraisah.

  21. Just read book of Rav Shlomo Wolbe “Planting and building in. Raising a Jewish child” second chapter about panishment and listen to shiurim about Chinuch of Rav Belsky on

    I once heard ( I think on shiur of Rav Goldwasser) that you can win the battle but loose the war or you can loose battle but win the war.

    I spanked my son and ruined our relations. And don’t tell that Torah and Shulchan Aruch require hitting children, it is a lie.

    We have to pass Torah to our children, and that could be done only with love.

  22. The fact that I visit this site is I like American papers nd I used to be frumer but the fact that I’m not frum anymore dosnt mean I shoudnt read this paper. Nd yes I do have a criminal record in America I wasn’t alowed back in to the states for that reason! I got stuck in England! Happens to be I also have one here in England to but that’s not the point! It dosnt mean that the fact that parents hit ther kids is for certain that the kid will grow up wrong but it def factors in. Ther is a lot of other ways that people mess up with ther kids its very hard to find the right balance for ur kid since every kid is diffrent to some level. Ends up that it all contributes towards the shaping up of ur kid the good nd the bad. Try keep it balanced I guess

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