According to a study, children who are beaten at a young age are more likely to have poor mental health and behavioral problems into their teens.
Those who experienced negative childhood experiences (ACEs) like smacking lips and harsh parenting had worse outcomes than those who didn’t, the study conducted by UCL researchers found.
The authors believe the research is helping to ensure that children in England must be legally protected from smacking and corporal punishment, as was introduced in Scotland last year.
The study, published in the journal Child, Abuse and Neglect, examines the long-term effects of adverse experiences on children aged three to 14 years.
It analyzed the responses of a sample of over 8,000 members of the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a research project into the lives of 19,000 children born in the UK between 2000 and 2001.
The data were provided at six points during the childhood of the participants aged nine months, three, five, seven, 11, and 14 years.
Parents were asked how often they beat their children or what they did when they were naughty, as well as questions about parenting conflicts, alcohol abuse, and psychiatric disorders.
This was then compared with information about their children’s behavior and well-being.
The researchers found that two-thirds of children by the age of three had an ACE or more, while almost one in five had two and one in six had three or more.
According to the study, there were better results for those who didn’t have ACEs, with worst results for those who had three or more.
The most common ACEs found to be parental depression, harsh parenting, smacking, parental violence, and parental alcohol abuse.
The researchers also report that parental depression and conflict were linked to internalization problems – such as: For example, playing alone, being nervous or unconfident in new situations, worrying, feeling down or crying.
It was also found that these behaviors increased as the children got older. The more bad things they experienced, the more problems they showed.
Corporal punishment and harsh parenting like screaming, sending children to their rooms and ignoring them were strongly linked to poorer mental health outcomes from childhood through adolescence.
Dr. Leonardo Bevilacqua, of UCL’s Institute of Education, Department of Psychology and Human Development, said: “Our findings on the close links between harsh parenting and corporal punishment and poor mental health in childhood and adolescence send a clear message to policymakers about children protect and educate parents. “
Scotland was the first part of the UK to ban child lip smacking when new laws went into effect last November giving children the same protection from abuse as adults.
Elsewhere, Wales will follow suit with the introduction of a ban that is expected to come into force by 2022.
Dr. Rebecca Lacey of UCL Epidemiology and Health Care said it was “time for England to follow suit” and “accept the evidence” of the possible long-term effects of harsh parenting.
“The current pandemic has put additional pressure on couples and families, and there are fears of an increase in violence, particularly against women and children,” she said.
“Never has a more important time to ensure these women and children are legally protected.”
Anna Edmundson, Head of NSPCC Policy, said: “The results of this research, which corroborates the evidence that corporal punishment can have lasting effects, underscores why England must work with Scotland and Wales to ensure that physical abuse against children is required are never ‘reasonable’. still “justified”.
“Westminster is behind the curve on this issue and the government urgently needs to change the law so that children in England have the same protection as in other parts of the UK.”