I have written repeatedly about spanking because it is an ongoing abuse in the Black community. There has been a new study released which suggests that spanking can lead to Adult Mental Illness.
Harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatmentis associated with mood disorders, anxiety disorders, substance abuse/dependence, and personality disorders in a general population sample. These findings inform the ongoing debate around the use of physical punishment and provide evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders.
In addition, perhaps the experience of physical punishment, even if not “physically abusive,” may generate acute or chronic stress through experiences of anxiety, fear, and shame, among others, that are associated with physiologic and emotional dysregulation21 and characteristic of a range of Axis I and II psychopathologic conditions. As with maltreatment, genetic variability may account for some of the differences in specific impairment associated with exposure.22–24
Reviews of the literature have indicated that physical punishment is related to higher levels of aggression, delinquency, and internalizing conditions in addition to lower levels of internalizing morals and overall mental health.25,26 There is some evidence that physical punishment is also associated with immediate compliance.24,25 Many studies have found a link between physical punishment and poor child and adolescent social, emotional, cognitive, developmental, and behavioral problems or impairment.27–33 There is also evidence for an association between physical punishment and poor adult mental health outcomes. For example, physical punishment has been associated with depressive symptoms in US college samples.34–36 Results from a US community survey indicated that physical punishment in the teenage years significantly increased the likelihood of depression, suicidal thoughts, and alcohol abuse in adulthood.2
You would think that with all of the evidence that has been produced about spanking that reasonable people would agree that in the long term it is not a positive form of discipline. I think that part of the problem is that the definition varies. For some, spanking is a single slap on the behind, for others, it’s over the knee with no more than six slaps. Some believe that spanking must be done on the bear buttocks to add an extra level of shame. Then there are those who will use implements like brushes, shoes, switches and belts. Even the use of an object for many does not rise to the level of abuse.
The results of this study did not surprise me because as an adult I had to deal with anger issues and violence fantasies for years as a result of so-called spankings. To this day I still have not forgiven the acts of violence against my person and I highly suspect that this will always be the case.
Once again, the same tired excuses have been used to deny the veracity of this study.
Just because one was spanked as a child does not mean that this is why your life is good today. Chances are you’re fine in spite of being spanked than because of it. Spanking teaches a child to fear you rather than respect you and breaks the parent child bond. Children are vulnerable and therefore dependent upon the adults in their lives for protection. When a parent spanks or otherwise uses physical punishment this breaks the bond of trust. How can they possibly feel safe when those who are supposed to love, support, and respect them violate their person to such a degree?
Reading around the Black blogosphere, I could not help but notice the absolute disregard to the mental health effects and I believe that has much to do with the stigma attached to mental illness. It is viewed as a weakness and something never to be publicly discussed. We aren’t supposed to talk about needing help much less seek it no matter the personal pain we are currently negotiating.
Spankings are often posited as the solution to the high drop out rate, teen pregnancy, and of course the high incarceration rate. If this was really the solution, would these problems continue to plague our communities? Children are being spanked even as I write this and some of them are most certainly headed on a path that is not positive. Discouraging adults from getting help when they need it through shame and other forms of manipulative acts, only exacerbates the problem.
The problems in the community have everything to do with the fact that our children are reared in a White supremacist, patriarchal, homophobic state. They are set up for failure from birth and spanking them is not going to change the issue because the problem is not them, but the culture into which they have been born. Even if they manage to stay out of trouble with the law, avoid pregnancy and drugs, even a university education does not necessarily mean an escape. When you have people with doctorates applying for food stamps, clearly the imbalance is causing a system wide collapse.
What our children need is love and support, not more violence in a world that is more than capable of being violent towards them in various forms. They need to see their parents as a safe place to land. They need to feel comfort from our touch, not fear. By the very nature of being children, they are going to make mistakes, attention seek in negative ways and just generally be irritating but none of that should result in physical violence. If I cannot hit an adult who has done something wrong, then it should not be legal to slap, spank, or push a child who is so much more vulnerable.
There are real issues involved in corporal punishment and I long for the day when adults start to see this as age based oppression and an absolute violation of the rights of a child. We need to start having honest conversations about what this is doing to our children and our communities and until that day happens, we are subverting the very goals we hope to achieve with violence.
Editors Note: This is a personally painful subject for me and I will not tolerate any discussions that suggest that violence against children in any form is acceptable.