Perspective: Blame it on my mom
You cannot imagine the release and exhilaration I felt while reading the article, “Study links physical punishment to later mental disorders,” in the July 3 USA Today. Now there is conclusive proof that my mother is the reason I have mental disorders (at least according to Polla, my kids and fellow workers at the Baptist Building).
The article makes some remarkable statements. “Children who are spanked, hit or pushed as a means of discipline may be at an increased risk of mental problems in adulthood—from mood and anxiety disorders to drug and alcohol abuse, new research suggests.” Notice the words “may be” and “suggests.” “. . . this is one of the first studies to show a link between non–abusive physical punishment and several different types of mental disorders,” says epidemiologist Tracie Afifi, lead author of the study in today’s Pediatrics. Afifi is a professor at the University of Manitoba.
Now listen to this—Mom, are you listening—“Approximately 2 percent to 7 percent of mental disorders in the study were linked to physical punishment.” Wow! The results of this study are earth shaking! Gigantic! Can you believe this is called science? The article even states that the results are conclusive. Afifi says, “Physical punishment should not be used on any child, at any age.”
Boy, do I wish my parents had known this a long time ago. They would have not only pleased Professor Afifi, but they would have made the environmentalists much happier also, because the elm tree behind our house had no limbs left by the time I became a teenager. That tree was stripped naked.
Actually, I am pleased that an Okie brought reason and sense to this study. “Certainly, overly sever physical punishment is going to have adverse effects on children,” says psychologist Robert Larzelere, of Oklahoma State University, Stillwater. “But for younger kids, if spanking is used in the most appropriate way, and the child perceives it is as being motivated by concern for their behavior and welfare, then I don’t think it has a detrimental effect.” Larzelere goes on to conclude that “the motivation that the child perceives and when and how and why the parent uses (spanking) makes a difference. All of that is more important than whether it was used or not.” Makes sense!
I am not lobbying for parents to start beating on their children, but neither do I believe that spanking done in the right spirit and attitude is wrong or hurtful—spanking can be corrective. Indeed the Proverbs encourage the use of spanking as a means to break a rebellious spirit in a child. Spanking done in anger or that causes physical harm is not only unacceptable but ungodly.
Mom has told me many times as an adult she wished she had not spanked me so much. I always respond by saying, “It does a lot of good to tell me that now!” I also tell her it did not harm me and, in fact, served as a suitable and good approach to reign me in and get me on the right path. And while my mental state may be considered by some as filled with “disorders,” I think my parents did a pretty good job. I must be in the 93 percent to 98 percent who were not affected by spanking.