Spare the rod, spoil the child?

Sep 21, 2010

Grabbing a child firmly by the arm, yelling and repeatedly punishing him or her may not be without long-terms risks, according to researchers from the University of Montreal. They are studying how this harsh parenting can impair the emotional development of a child, possibly leading to anxiety disorders such as social phobia, separation anxiety and panic attacks.

"Several studies have shown that coercive parenting practices are linked to ," says Françoise Maheu a professor at the Université de Montréal's Department of Psychiatry and lead investigator of the study. "We know that common practices such as spanking or excessive punishment do not instill a strong discipline. Quite the opposite, they have a lasting psychological impact on children."

Showing the physiological effect

Maheu and her team are investigating specifically how the anatomy or physiology of the brain is affected by this parenting. They are in the process of recruiting 120 youths aged 12 to 17 years. These youths will be split into four groups according to two variables: their current anxiety symptoms and their parent's current harsh . While doing behavioural tests, the children will be subjected to functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), where their brain activity (cerebral activity) will be measured. Maheu will then be able to correlate brain activity with fear and anxiety.

"My hypothesis is that two specialized structures, the amygdala and the anterior congulate cortex, which form the neural fear circuit, play a role in mediating the anxiety associated with harsh parenting. We are investigating these structures because they are strongly associated with the processing of threat cues" says Maheu.

"Investigating the links among harsh parenting, fear circuitry and anxiety in youths will provide key insights on the developmental neurobiology of harsh parenting and anxiety," adds Maheu. "Understanding this while individuals are young is crucial as it could lead to early interventions that would effectively interrupt a development trajectory early in its course, before anxiety becomes chronic."

According to research findings, may result from a combination of biochemical imbalances, genetic factors and stress. School, moving, illness, poverty, and peer pressures can all contribute to the development of an anxiety disorder. If symptoms are not recognized and treated these disorders may lead to alcoholism, difficulties maintaining relationships, depression and in certain cases, suicide.

Explore further: Child bullies most often pick on others for 'being fat'

Related Stories

Childhood anxiety can be prevented with early intervention

Sep 20, 2010

A team of researchers from Macquarie University has found that early intervention with parents of children at risk for anxiety and related disorders can potentially make the difference in whether a child will go on to develop ...

Genetic predisposition may play a role in anxiety disorders

Aug 27, 2008

Finnish scientists have identified genes that may predispose to anxiety disorders. Research conducted under the supervision of Academy Research Fellow Iiris Hovatta have focused on genes that influence human behaviour, and ...

Childhood anxiety disorders can and should be treated

Dec 24, 2008

Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents should be recognized and treated to prevent educational underachievement and adult substance abuse, anxiety disorders and depression, says a nationally recognized child psychiatrist ...

Recommended for you

Best friends may help poor kids succeed

18 hours ago

(HealthDay)—Children who grow up in poor neighborhoods face more obstacles in life, but new research suggests that having a best friend can help these kids succeed.

Emotion knowledge fosters attentiveness

21 hours ago

Young children, who possess a good understanding of their own emotions and of those of their fellow human beings early on, suffer fewer attention problems than their peers with a lower emotional understanding. Evidence of ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (3) Sep 21, 2010
If I were Bill Gates, I'd give billions to this kind of research.

It might be lofty to give to AIDS, to give to malaria, to give to 3rd world poverty, or to shovel cheap laptops to 3rd world kids. But seeing the Western World get harsher and harder by the day, the kids of today really have to be balanced, and have a healthy psychological foundation, to stand any chance tomorrow.

With one-parent families on the flooding rise, with less and less quality time within the family, the need to make this a top priority for parents, and social workers, is paramount.

If we don't do this now, the Western way of living has seen its last generation, before crumbling, from within.

We may be in a position to divert an approaching asteroid, to vanquish a looming pandemonium. But subtle, and increasing cues from within seem to be totally below our radar. Rather than bad-mouthing competing religions, ideologies or societies, we should work hard at keeping ours viable and flourishing.
2 / 5 (4) Sep 21, 2010
Stupid study alert.

Which is harsher. A kid who is deliberatly disopedent, quickly dealt a spank that they knew was coming because of set expectations, after the tears hugs given, or the same kid not touched at all but screamed at, told they are a loser that the parent isn't proud of them, and then sent to their room?

Not sparing the rod, aka spanking, when properly done is less harsh and more effective than many progressive means of punishment.

Idiotic professors who cannot tell the difference between and lumps together beatings, grabbings, and pushing with effective spankings should have their PHD's taken away, epecially when he states ... We know that common practices such as spanking ... do not instill a strong discipline....
not rated yet Sep 24, 2010
Not sparing the rod, aka spanking, when properly done is less harsh and more effective than many progressive means of punishment.
Define progressive means of punishment.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.