Study: Depressed Dads More Likely to Spank Their 1 Year Olds
New fathers aren't immune to postpartum depression, and sad dads are nearly four times more likely to spank their children than are their happier counterparts. About 40 percent of depressed fathers say they've spanked their 1 year olds, compared with 13 percent of unaffected dads, according to a study published today in Pediatrics. Spanking at such a young age is particularly worrisome, since babies and toddlers are most susceptible to physical injury, the study authors say. The findings come from a nationally representative survey of nearly 2,000 dads conducted between 1999 and 2000. In addition to spanking, depressed fathers were less than half as likely to read to their children three or more times each week. The researchers say pediatricians should closely monitor parents' mental states while providing support to new moms and dads. "The hardest part is going to be getting guys to talk about [depression] or even recognize it," stay-at-home dad Chris Illuminati, of Lawrenceville, N.J, told the Associated Press. "I didn't know who to talk to. I felt like a wuss if I mentioned it to anyone."
Spanking and Kids' Aggression: 3 Alternatives to Spanking That Work for Parents and Kids
Does spanking your child make him behave better, or set the stage for bigger trouble? Research says that spanking children at age 3 makes them more likely to become bullies by age 5. But the news sparked ire from parents who say they were spanked as children, but turned out just fine, thank you, U.S. News reported in April 2010.
The study, by Catherine Taylor, an assistant professor of community health sciences at Tulane University in New Orleans, analyzed survey data in which about 2,500 mothers reported how often they had spanked their 3-year-old in the past month. Almost half of the mothers (45.6 percent) hadn't spanked at all, while 27.9 percent had spanked their child once or twice. One quarter of the mothers said they spanked the child frequently. The mothers who spanked were more likely to report aggressive behavior when the child was 5, including: Arguing or screaming a lot; bullying; bBeing mean to other kids; getting into fights; and teasing or threatening others.
"This study is not saying that children don't need discipline," Taylor said. "Kids need discipline. But we really encourage parents to focus on positive, non-physical types of discipline such as time out, instead of spanking." And, of course, not every kid who is spanked turns into a bully. But Taylor says it's clear that spanking is a risk factor for increased aggressive behavior in children. "If you're trying to improve behavior, this is counterproductive." [Read more: Spanking and Kids' Aggression: 3 Alternatives to Spanking That Work for Parents and Kids.]
3 Ways to Help Good Kids Make Tough Choices
All parents want their children to grow up to be honest, kind people who do the right thing, writes U.S. News contributor Nancy Shute. But teaching ethical behavior can sound like an overwhelming task when parents are dealing with the challenges of everyday behavior. It doesn't have to be. Teaching children ethics really can be part of everyday life, according to Rush Kidder, author of the book Good Kids, Tough Choices: How Parents Can Help Their Children Do the Right Thing (Jossey-Bass, $16.95). Kidder, a former journalist, is the president and founder of the Institute for Global Ethics in Rockland, Maine, and usually spends his time running ethics seminars for corporations and government agencies. When participants kept saying, "Wow, this is going to be really helpful at home," Kidder realized it was time for an ethics manual for parents.
When tackling a subject as big as ethics, parents don't want to sound preachy or old-fashioned, but they also don't want to sound naïve. The key is using a language, not authoritarian demands, Kidder says. It's a question of finding the right balance, and doing it in a way that inspires conversation. [Read more: 3 Ways to Help Good Kids Make Tough Choices.]