While different races seem to spank their children at different rates (generally, black and Latino participants were more likely to report receiving more spankings as children, as were those who self-identified as ‘other race’; conversely, children of Asian descent were more likely to report receiving very little spanking) the results were the same. Children who were spanked were more likely to exhibit behavior and mental issues associated with ACEs. This includes substance abuse, depression, and in extreme cases, suicide attempts. Conversely, children spanked less often were less likely to feel this way, and therefore unlikely to exhibit such behavior.
As mentioned earlier, it seems that spanking should be considered an ACE, like the various forms of child abuse and neglect. The scientists certainly seem to think so. That being said, they would not go so far as to say that spanking should be equivalent to such things. However, spanking is perhaps a gateway to them and may set in place some of the harmful elements that lead to mental issues and unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as drinking and drug abuse. There is more to consider, like the possibility parents who spanked were more likely to engage in abusive behaviors.Related: 10 Warning Signs your Child might have a Mental Disorder
So, is spanking bad? Probably. It certainly correlates with mental harm later in life, whether or not it directly causes it. That doesn’t mean that children who were spanked always turn out with serious mental health problems or problematic behaviors—but the link is difficult to ignore. Even if the jury is out on that one, consider the fact that research has yet to reveal any positive effects that spanking has on a child. With that in mind, it seems that perhaps sparing the rod and spoiling the child are not as closely associated as we may tend to think.