My headline overstates it — not all people who were spanked as children grow up to suffer from depression — but a new study shows there is a link. Children who are spanked are more likely than children who are not spanked to feel depressed, attempt suicide, have drinking problems, and use drugs as adults.

That puts spanking — defined as “using physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, to correct or control the youth’s behavior” — on the spectrum of physical and emotional abuse. Other violent acts against children have similar effects to those associated with spanking.

Opinions vary about the best ways to discipline children, but experts agree that good behavior should be taught calmly and consistently. The goal of parental discipline should be to teach a child to discipline him or herself eventually. Go here to read more about age-appropriate discipline.

The spanking study recommends public health outreach to direct parents toward positive parenting — focusing more on recognizing and promoting good behavior than on punishing bad behavior.

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