Rise in Children’s Mental Illness Linked to Stressed Parents’ Smacking: Research

by Thilaka Ravi on Jul 30 2008 1:51 PM

A new Australian research has found evidence to link depression and anxiety suffered by three-year-olds with their parents’ smacking and yelling at them.

Reports of rise in mental illness of young people in Australia say at least one in seven children are affected by a mental illness. Some psychologists report a 60 per cent increase in the number of youngsters displaying anxiety and anti-social behavior.

The study by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, Australia’s largest child health research institute, observed 700 children and found stressed parents are lashing out at kids leading to mental health problems as well as abusive behaviour in kids.

The research found children who have tendencies to kick, hit, bite others and are socially withdrawn are usually the ones who grew up under harsh parenting that included yelling and smacking at a young age. 

Study author and child psychologist Dr Jordana Bayer said, “We are not talking about a parent who smacks just once.”

“Remember when parents smack or hit their child, they might learn to do that as well. When parents are stressed, it's more challenging to be relaxed and respond to their children in ways they would like to respond to them,” she added.

The study team followed more than 700 toddlers, aged between seven months and three years, to observe the risks of parenting practices.

Parents who continue to smack their abusive children could be sending them in later years, on a path of alcohol and drug abuse, crime, unemployment and suicide.

According to Dr Kimberley O'Brien, of the Quirky Kids Clinic at Woollahra, stressed parents were placing too much pressure on their children.

"We have seen a 60 per cent increase in demand for our child anxiety classes in the past six months," she said.

Psychologists report seeing signs of anxiety—toddlers biting their nails, older children wetting the bed and pulling out their eyelashes.

Childhood Foundation CEO Joe Tucci said hitting youngsters had become outdated.  On the one hand there is a constant reminder from experts to ban smacking and on the other some adults find it easier to use the “traditional” method to discipline children.