Researchers surveyed over 30,000 U.S. adults about whether they had experienced harsh physical punishment (e.g., pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, or hitting) as children. After adjusting for education, family history of dysfunction and mental disorders, and other variables, adults who reported receiving harsh physical punishment as children were at increased risk for having arthritis (adjusted odds ratio, 1.25) and obesity (OR, 1.20). The risk for cardiovascular disease was of borderline significance. Past studies have found that childhood mistreatment is linked to dysregulation of the body’s stress response system.
For physicians advising parents about discipline, the authors write: “It is recommended that physical punishment not be used with children of any age.” They instead recommend “positive parenting approaches and nonphysical means of discipline.”