Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Spanking kids ups health woes in adulthood? That's NOT what the report says

Newspaper headlines today are saying Spanking kids ups health woes in adulthood. The study talks about "harsh physical punishment" such as being "pushed, grabbed, shoved, slapped or hit". Perhaps spanking is a cause of later mental distress -- but this study doesn't show it to be so:

Story here

"The findings "provide evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is related to mental disorders," they concluded.

The researchers cautioned that the study was cross-sectional, which precludes drawing any causal inferences."


Stephen Downes said...

Quite so. But the study ALSO says:

"it is important for pediatricians and other health care providers who work with children and parents to be aware of the link between physical punishment and mental disorders based on this study, which adds to the growing literature about the adverse outcomes associated with exposure to physical punishment"

Also, "A more explicit position statement to be considered in the future might include the statement that physical punishment (ie, spanking, smacking, slapping) should not be used with children of any age."

The statement "A causes B" is a statement researchers never assert on the basis of a single study. But they do say things like "There is enough of an association between incidents of A and subsequent incidents of B as to suggest that the practice of A be discouraged in the (likely) event that it causes B."

THAT's what's happening here, and though the news report abbrevates all that with the word "ups".

Or, another way of saying the same thing: "Spanked kids HAVE health woes in adulthood."

But now, arguing against the use of the word "ups" and for the word "have" is a bit pedantic. The gist of the story stands.

James C Morton said...

Fair nuff