British scientists say those who hit or raise their voices at youngsters expose them to the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and asthma.
Parents who smack or shout at their children place them at greater risk of health problems later in life – including cancer, new research has found. Scientists say those who hit or raise their voices at youngsters expose them to the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and asthma. They claim only minor smacks and shouting can have the same long term health implications as serious abuse and trauma.
The report found use of ‘harsh punishments’ in childhood increases the risk of disease in later life.
It says the link could be caused because smacking and shouting at children causes them stress. The increased stress levels then cause biological changes within an individual which can lead to serious health problems, the study found. The study was carried out by psychologists from Plymouth University in Devon and published in the Journal of Behavioural Medicine.
Professor Michael Hyland, from the University’s School of Psychology, led the study. He said: ‘Early life stress in the form of trauma and abuse is known to create long term changes that predispose to later disease.
‘But this study shows that in a society where corporal punishment is considered normal, the use of corporal punishment is sufficiently stressful to have the same kinds of long term impact as abuse and trauma.’ The study was conducted by Professor Hyland and colleagues Dr. Ahmed Alkhalaf and Dr. Ben Whalley.
They researched 700 people in Saudi Arabia, 250 of whom were healthy but another 150 who each had asthma, cancer or cardiac disease. The increased stress levels caused by being shouted at can cause biological changes that can lead to serious health problems, the study found Participants were asked whether and how often they had been physically or verbally punished as children. Those who had cancer were 1.7 times more likely to have been beaten as a child compared to the healthy sample.
Those with cardiac disease were 1.3 times more likely and those with asthma 1.6 times more likely.
Professor Hyland added: ‘Our research adds a new perspective on the increasing evidence that the use of corporal punishment can contribute to childhood stress, and when it becomes a stressor, corporal punishment contributes to poor outcomes both for the individual concerned and for society.’
In Sweden corporal punishment was banned in 1976 and since then almost another 30 countries have brought in similar legislation. In many countries – including the UK – corporal punishment is banned in schools but not in the home.
Other countries including the USA have no universal ban of corporal punishment in schools. They study reported use of corporal punishment has decreased globally but is still experiences by 50 per cent of children worldwide.