Depressed dads quick to spank children

Mood swings

Depressed dads quick to spank children

“This finding is particularly concerning given that children in our study included one year olds,” Dr R Neal Davis, of Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah, and colleagues write in the journal Pediatrics.

At that age, they add, spanking is more likely to cause injuries, and children probably won’t understand why they are being hurt. The study is based on interviews with more than 1,700 new fathers from 20 large cities in the US.

“There has been other research showing that mothers who are depressed are more likely to spank their kids, but this is the first time it has been shown for dads,” said Elizabeth Gershoff, an expert in child development and family relationships at the University of Texas at Austin.

Gershoff, who was not involved in the study, added that it might make sense for mothers to keep an eye on their partner if he is depressed and offer to take care of the kids if things get hectic.

“Parents who are depressed have very short fuses,” she told Reuters Health. “They have much less tolerance when their children misbehave.” According to a 2009 report from the Institute of Medicine, more than 15 million American kids are living with an adult who suffers from depression. Earlier studies have hinted—but not proven—that spanking may leave a psychological mark on toddlers, prompting aggression and other problems years later.

Many psychologists recommend time-outs and other types of non-physical punishment instead, and both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Psychological Association discourage spanking.

Still, a 2008 US survey showed that 77 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women agree that a child sometimes needs a “good hard spanking”. The new study does not prove that depression leads to spanking in itself, since a host of other problems could be involved.

But even ruling out some of the most obvious competing explanations—such as unemployment, poverty and education—dads who’d felt blue in the past year were four times as likely to swat their kids as those who felt fine.

They were also less likely to read stories for their children, although they played and sang songs for them just as frequently as their less troubled peers.

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