|TORONTO, Oct 5, 1999 (Reuters) - Children spanked by their
parents are twice as likely to develop drug and alcohol problems in adulthood, according to a Canadian study
released on Tuesday.
The study found that those who were spanked or slapped had increased rates of anxiety
disorders, anti-social behavior and depression.
But the authors of the survey of 4,888 adults in Ontario were quick to add that once
spanked a child wouldn't automatically develop problems.
``Not everyone who is spanked or slapped (as a child) goes on to develop a disorder,''
said Dr. Harriet MacMillan, who developed the study with five other researchers at McMaster University in
Their study, published on Tuesday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, is
believed to be the largest of its kind in the world.
The researchers based their findings on the responses of adults, ages 15 to 64. Of the
respondents who were slapped or spanked occasionally, 21 percent developed anxiety, 7 percent suffered from
major depression, 13 percent had an alcohol problem, and 17 per cent developed drug abuse or an anxiety
``It is likely that some, but not all (respondents), are at risk for developing a
disorder,'' she said. ``But since I can't predict who will develop a disorder, the risk should be avoided by
practicing alternative forms of discipline.''
About 70 to 75 percent of Canadian parents spank their children, according to previous
studies. But 41 percent of those surveyed were ``rarely'' spanked or slapped as children, while 34 per cent
said ``sometimes'', 21 per cent said ``never'' and 6 per cent responded ``often''.
But spanking is much more common in society than the data indicates, because kids are
mostly frequently spanked between the ages of 3 and 4, and that is too early for most adults to remember,
She hopes her findings will encourage parents to avoid spanking as a disciplinary
The Toronto-based legal-aid clinic, Justice for Children and Youth, is launching a
constitutional challenge against spanking.
"The study reinforces what parents need to hear - spanking is is not good for
children and parents need to modify their behavior, said lawyer Cheryl Milne.