Study Reveals That Spanking Affects Children’s Mental Health

According to a recent study by Harvard,  Spanking can impact a child’s brain development in the same way severer types of violence can. The study, which was published in the Child Development Journal, continues existing research that shows heightened brain activity in some regions of the brain in children who have experienced violence.

Spanking and behavioral issues

The scientists discovered that the children had a greater neural response in parts of the prefrontal cortex when they are being spanked. These regions respond to a person’s surroundings that seem like a threat, which affects decision-making and processing of situations.

Senior study researcher Katie A. McLaughlin remarks in the study that it is commonly known that children whose parents use corporal punishment are more likely to develop behavioral issues and mental health problems. However, many people do not consider spanking a form of violence. She adds that in this study, they wanted to examine if spanking affected the neurobiological level.

The study’s authors said that corporal punishment had been associated with the development of anxiety, depression, and even substance abuse. New studies show that about half of the parents studied admitted to spanking their children in the past 12 months. In these studies, however, the relationship between brain activity and spanking has not been reviewed.

The Harvard researchers assessed data from a significant study of children aged between 3 and 11. These kids were all spanked but excluded those who had suffered extreme cases of violence.

Different scans for children who had been spanked

They laid on an MRI machine, gazing at a computer monitor which displayed actors showing “fearful” and “neutral” faces. A scanner recorded the children’s brain activities as they reacted to each kind of face. The images were analyzed to reveal different brain activity patterns in children who had been spanked.

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