Study claims smacking kids causes mental illness

Children who were smacked are more likely to suffer from mental health problems in later life, a controversial study has claimed.

But questions have been raised about the study’s methods and the results do not actually provide any evidence that smacking causes mental illness.

The study, which was published in an anti-smacking group’s journal, claimed that two to seven per cent of mental disorders could be attributed to “harsh physical punishment”.


Although the study claimed some evidence of a link between mental illness and harsh physical punishment including smacking, one critic said the study “does not provide any evidence that one causes the other”.

“Importantly”, the NHS’ Behind the Headlines website added, “there may be many other medical, personal, social or lifestyle factors that contribute to adults developing a mental disorder”.

It also noted that the study relied on respondents self-reporting certain facts – which affects the results’ reliability.


Researchers for the study looked at data from adults aged 20 or over who were asked: “As a child how often were you ever pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit by your parents or any adult living in your house?”

Those who said “sometimes” or more regularly were considered to have experienced “harsh physical punishment” and were included in the analysis.

The study’s author, Tracie Afifi, claimed it “definitely points to the direction that physical punishment should not be used on children of any age”.

But earlier this year in the UK, four out of five parents told a survey that they had smacked their children.


The survey also showed that 60 per cent of respondents supported calls to roll back restrictions on smacking.

The law on smacking in England and Wales allows parents to smack their children but legislation in 2004 narrowed the defence of “reasonable chastisement”.

David Lammy, of Labour, and the Conservative’s Boris Johnson, have also backed the right of parents to smack their children.