As a child, I was never spanked or punished in any physical manner. To be sure I got my share of punishment, well earned I might add. My father was very creative in meting out punishment. When I was caught red handed listening on a private conversation between my sister and her boyfriend, my father took down the door from my room and left it that way for over a month. This was, he said, to let you know firsthand what it’s like to invade someone’s privacy. When I told my mother to”shut up” (the first and last time I ever used any foul language toward my parents), he first washed my mouth out with soap. Ok, not so creative, but very disgusting. However, the coup de’tat-a very brilliant one I might add, he demanded that he accompany my blind date and me to dinner and then to a movie. Since I acted disrespectfully toward my mother, he would return the favor. He refused to let me cancel the date. Needless to say, that was my first and last date with that girl.
Parents do indeed have different forms of punishment. A recent study adds fuel to the growing concern about corporal punishment-spanking, pushing, hitting or using a belt. The study involved adults who were asked whether and how often they had received such punishment while a child. Physical and sexual child abuse were excluded. It turns out that those who answered the question with sometimes or often were more likely to suffer from a host of adult mental illnesses including depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, alcohol or drug abuse. In addition, there was a greater likelihood of having obsessive compulsive disorder and other personality disorders.
These adults were subjected to what might be termed harsh physical punishment. Most would argue that this kind of punishment does not represent physical child abuse. Still, the results are disturbing and do call for further studies. The authors of this study claim that up to 7% of certain adult mental health disorders result from such punishment. Given the large number of adults who suffer from mental disorders, 7% represents quite a bit of potentially preventable illnesses.
As a parent of two children, I have tried to follow in my father’s footsteps: No physical punishment; rather creative punitive actions. I still wince at the memory of my father sitting next to my blind date and me in that dimly lit theater.