Informing the debate on spanking

July 3rd, 2012 · No Comments · Medicine, News, News Release, Research

New study by University of Manitoba researchers examines the link between physical punishment and mental disorders

Harsh physical punishment, even in the absence of child maltreatment, is associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse/dependence and personality disorders, a new study by University of Manitoba researchers concludes.

The study, published in the July 2 edition of the journal Pediatrics, was led by Tracie Afifi, an assistant professor in the University of Manitoba’s departments of Community Health Sciences, Psychiatry and Family Social Sciences. Her U of M co-authors include Natalie Mota, Patricia Dasiewicz, and Jitender Sareen, along with Harriet MacMillan from McMaster University.

Few studies have examined the relationship between physical punishment and a wide range of mental disorders in a nationally representative sample. The present research investigated the possible link between harsh physical punishment (i.e., pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting) in the absence of more severe child maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, and exposure to intimate partner violence) and Axis I and II mental disorders.

“Physical punishment should not be used on children of any age,” Afifi says. “Policies need to be focused on strategies to reduce physical punishment, which points to the importance of positive parenting approaches. These findings are important in considering policy and programmatic approaches to protect children from inappropriate and potentially harmful discipline.”

Preparation of this article was supported by a Manitoba Medical Services Foundation (MMSF) award, a Winnipeg Foundation award, and a Manitoba Health Research Council (MHRC) establishment award.

For more information contact Sean Moore, Marketing Communications Office, University of Manitoba, 204-474-7963 (

Tags: ··········