It comes as no surprise that physically punishing kids by means of slapping, pushing, or shoving, may lead to a future of health problems for children. But a new study has found that those health problems may go beyond mental and emotional issues, linking physical punishment to obesity, arthritis, and even cardiovascular disease.
Last year, researchers at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, published a study the concluded that physical punishment could lead to mental disorders for children in the future. This year, those same researchers re-analyzed data collected in 2004 and 2005 by United States Census interviewers, to determine what other health risks were associated with physical punishment.
The survey questioned over 34,000 adults about whether their parents or other adults in their home punished them by pushing, slapping, grabbing, shoving, or hitting them as children. The participants also answered questions about their current health conditions.
About 1,300 people reported being physically punished at least "sometimes" as children. This did not include children who reported more extreme physical or emotional abuse or neglect. Compared to people who weren't punished physically as children, those that were had a higher risk of being diagnosed with at least one chronic health condition. Twenty-five percent were more likely to have arthritis, 28 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease, and 31 percent were more likely to be obese (compared with the 26 percent obesity rate for those with no history of physical punishment.)
The researchers admit that the association between physical punishment and these health conditions could be complicated. For instance, physical punishment in childhood could lead to sleep disorders or chronic stress that in turn lead to illnesses such as cardiovascular disease or obesity. But the bottom line is that physically punishing kids is not good for anyone - not now and not in the future. Certainly not when there are plenty of other methods for disciplining kids that don't involve hitting them.