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Smacked children twice as likely to develop mental health disorders

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Children who are smacked repeatedly by their parents are nearly twice as likely to develop anxiety and depression later in life, a new study has revealed.

The study from the Australian Catholic University also revealed six in ten children have been smacked repeatedly by their parents.

Lead researcher Professor Daryl Higgins said the finds were concerning. 

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"Corporal punishment (smacking) has negative effects on mental health and part of the reason is because corporal punishment tends to go alongside experiences of child abuse and neglect," he said.

Higgins said they found 61 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds experienced corporal punishment as children four or more times.

"61 per cent of young people is a very large proportion," he said. 

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The study also took into account other harmful behaviours in the home, including abuse.

"It's really important to take into account the broader environment that children grow up in," Higgins said.

The study also found girls who had experienced corporal punishment at least four times were 1.8 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder later in their lifetime, and 2.1 times as likely to experience anxiety.

"If you want to reduce population-level anxiety for women and men, don't hit them as children," Higgins said.

"There is a very real connection between corporal punishment and current and lifelong experience of mental ill-health."



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