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Bruises fade and skin heals, but the mind remembers. Physical punishment is still prevalent among US families. This study found the prevalence of physical punishment without "more severe child maltreatment" was 5.9%. Boys get physically punished more than girls, 59.4% to 40.6%. Blacks get beat more than whites. Asians and Pacific Islanders (including native Hawaiians) were the least likely to get whupped by their own parents.

The harsher the physical (or emotional) punishment was, the higher the odds of an axis I or II diagnosis. Axis I diagnoses include major depression, dysthymia, mania, mood disorders, phobias, anxiety disorders, and drug and alcohol abuse or dependence. Axis II diagnoses include several individual personality disorders and cluster A and B disorder diagnoses. The researchers concluded that 2-7% of all mental disease is attributable to childhood abuse.


Major depression (aOR, 1.41)
Dysthymia (aOR, 1.70)
Mania (aOR, 1.93)
Any mood disorder (aOR, 1.49)
Specific phobia (aOR, 1.31)
General anxiety disorder (aOR, 1.50)
Any anxiety disorder (aOR, 1.36)
Any alcohol abuse or dependence (aOR, 1.59)
Any drug dependence or abuse (aOR, 1.53)

***PAFs for Axis I disorders were 2.1% (any anxiety disorder), 2.4% (major depression), 2.8% (any mood disorder), 3.0% (any drug dependence or abuse), 3.4% (any alcohol abuse or dependence), and 5.2% (mania).

Schizoid (aOR, 1.80)
Schizotypal (aOR, 2.31)
Any cluster A (paranoid, schizoid, schizotypal personality disorders; aOR, 1.74)
Antisocial (aOR, 1.98)
Borderline (aOR, 1.82)
Narcissistic (aOR, 1.84)
Any cluster B (antisocial, histrionic, borderline, and narcissistic disorders; aOR, 1.85)
Obsessive-compulsive (aOR, 1.60)
Any cluster C (avoidant, dependent, and obsessive-compulsive disorders; aOR, 1.51)

***Axis II disorders not linked with physical punishment were paranoid, histrionic, and avoidant personality disorders.
***PAFs for Axis II disorders were 4.2% (any cluster A disorder), 4.6% (borderline), 4.7% (narcissistic), 4.8% (any cluster B), 5.5% (antisocial), and 7.2% (schizotypal).
Study limitations were cross-sectional design and retrospective recall of childhood punishment and parental conditions.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 24th, 2012 12:54 am (UTC)
correlation != causation seems applicable here. Thing is, I *know* some actual living breathing children. Some of them are *good kids*, they simply don't do "bad" things. They are confident, articulate, engaging and agreeable. Those kids *never* get "spanked". And then there are the others. The aggressive, confrontational, disagreeable, little monsters. They get beat whooped regularly. Now, the children that are likely to grow up without problems... gee, which would you figure that would be, the ones that drove a loving parent to hit them, or the ones that were amenable to reason? Gee, lemme think...

There's literally no way to successfully run this experiment without being able to clone test tube babies.
Jul. 24th, 2012 05:10 pm (UTC)
True enough. I suspect that the disagreeableness of some children is at least partly set up by early parenting. Could it be that the same parents who can't model good behavior for their children are the ones who end up beating their rowdy ones? It's the chicken and egg question, completely unanswerable. Still, we think we know something about it.
Jul. 24th, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
Same parents. Different kids. 1 guy i know had 10 kids, 9 of them well behaved, never struck, no issues, 1 of them difficult, periodically spanked, poor outcome. Hard to blame parenting there.
Jul. 24th, 2012 09:18 pm (UTC)
Yes, this does happen. Can't really blame genetics, either. In which case you have to wonder about the kid's other exposures: maybe there's another human in his life that is twisting his mind.
Jul. 26th, 2012 04:00 am (UTC)
The thing is, I don't have a clue. To say that it is or isn't genetic misses the *vast* number of different combinations that can be produced when sperm meets egg. Then there are a ga-billion things that can happen during the pregnancy that can have impacts, many of which won't even be *noticed* by the mother, and then there are the the millions upon millions of things that could happen and not be remarked upon during the early formatives... too many possibilities.

All I'm saying is that in this particular chicken/egg scenario, there are an awful lot of people shouting "CHICKEN!!" With great certainty, and not a little self-righteousness, when "egg" is just about as plausible.

In all honesty, a lot on this depends on *who* is doing the study, whether they lump the straight-up abusers in with the corporal discipliners, where that line is drawn, where the sample set was collected (I am going to posit that children raised in urban left-of-center communities that *are* spanked are going to be *much* more prone to psychological problems than children in conservative rural areas that are, because in the first, it's abnormal to be spanked, and in the second it's normal, so the trauma of being struck will be greater because it's also *unusual*), and enough other factors that I doubt that there's any real chance of separating the signal from the noise.
Jul. 26th, 2012 04:43 pm (UTC)
Good points, indeed.

Myers-Briggs, you know, the guys (gals?) that came up with the psych tool for identifying personalities, they say that some personalities respond better to corporal punishment than others. They make the point that parents may not grasp that their child has a different personality from them, and treat them as they would have liked to have been treated, to ill effect. So in addition to the blurriness of the punishment/abuse line, and the myriad parenting/exposure and genetic variations there are variations in children and their responses (which again are chicken/egg quandaries).

Spanking me did absolutely no good: I HATED the spanker and did everything in my childish power to thwart them. I was good at it too. It was a power game, and a deadly one at that. Some kids don't respond like I did----they take the lesson that they made a mistake and should behave differently, and choose to do so.

But all of this does not eliminate the correlations. Correlations are clues. They do not tell us the mechanism, but they are useful anyway.
Jul. 24th, 2012 01:31 pm (UTC)
We all know that hitting isn't nice. It sure is expedient. Also I've noticed that physical punishments are diminishing in force from generation to generation. My dad's family thought nothing of using objects on him, belts, spoons, etc. My mother was horrified when she caught him about to beat my ass with a wooden spoon. At age 4... My mom was hand only. I have hit my kids. I never spanked. It's generally after a long string of ignored requests. My kids aren't usually snotty. They just blow me off until I explode. (Hmmm. Wonder where they learned that? :P)

Do Asians and Pacific Islanders suffer from less mental illness? Like 2-7% less mental illness?
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )



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