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New study finds spanking can cause lifelong mental health issues

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RICHMOND, Va. -- A new study suggests spanking can cause children to defy their parents more frequently and can also result in mental health issues. CBS 6 talked to some local parents, who had mixed opinions about the issue.

Joseph Hudson said when he looks at his precious 14-month-old son Garland, he can’t even fathom spanking him.

“Definitely a friendly baby. I got blessed,” Hudson said.

Yet, he remembers occasionally being spanked when he was a kid, and said he can’t rule it out.

“I guess there is a time and place for that,” Hudson said.

Same story for Thurston Morrell, who said he was spanked as a kid, and he believes an occasional spanking when warranted can be very effective.

“You can’t go through life thinking you can do what you want without any consequences,” Morrell said.

But, a new study published in the Journal of Family Psychology, found spanking can cause children to defy their parents more frequently, and can also result in lifelong mental health issues.

“If we’re all trying to be the best parents we can be... Wouldn’t we want to take a look at new evidence?” Ian Danielsen with the Children’s Advocacy Center at Greater Richmond SCAN said.

Danielsen said he doesn’t tell parents if they should or should not spank their kids, yet he personally doesn’t spank his own kids.

“How many kids who are spanked take that spanking and hit other kids because the message they receive is you use physical aggression to solve your problems?” Danielsen said.

New parent Barry Gamble said he chooses not to use spanking as a form of discipline for that very reason.

“I feel like as an adult I should be able to find another way to convey a point besides violence,” Gamble said.

The study

The study, conducted by experts at the University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan, says spanking can cause permanent social and developmental problems.

The study looked at over 160,000 children over a 50-year period and defined spanking as: “An open-handed hit on the behind or extremities.”

As the frequency of spanking increases, the likelihood of anti-social behavior, mental health issues, and aggression also increases, according to the results of the study.

Children who were spanked were also more likely to support physical punishment of their own children.

“Our analysis focuses on what most Americans would recognize as spanking and not on potentially abusive behaviors,” study author Elizabeth Gershoff, an associate professor of human development and family sciences at The University of Texas at Austin, said in a news release. “We found that spanking was associated with unintended detrimental outcomes, and was not associated with more immediate or long-term compliance, which are parents’ intended outcomes when they discipline their children.”

According to a 2014 UNICEF report, as many as 80 percent of parents across the world admit to spanking their children.

“Spanking thus does the opposite of what parents usually want it to do,” co-author Grogan-Kaylor, an associate professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, said in the news release.

Researchers said there’s no evidence that shows spanking has any positive effect on a child’s behavior or development, and that outcomes from spanking can be compared to physical abuse.

“We as a society think of spanking and physical abuse as distinct behaviors,” she says. “Yet our research shows that spanking is linked with the same negative child outcomes as abuse, just to a slightly lesser degree.”