NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Parents who teach “tough love” by disciplining their children with spankings could be making them more likely to have sexual problems as teenagers and adults, a leading researcher said.
Professor Murray Straus, of the University of New Hampshire, found that children who are spanked or experience other corporal punishment have a raised risk as teenagers and adults to verbally or physically coerce a partner into having sex.
“It’s more evidence that parents should not spank if the wellbeing of their children is at stake,” he said in an interview.
Straus analyzed the results of the International Dating Violence Study, a survey of more than 14,000 university students at 68 universities in 32 countries. The students were asked if they had been spanked or hit frequently before age 12 and if they had coerced a sexual partner in the previous 12 months.
Men who had experienced corporal punishment were four times more likely to physically coerce a partner into having sex, than those who had not experienced a lot of corporal punishment.
Physical coercion includes holding someone down or hitting them. Women who had experienced corporal punishment were also more likely to coerce sex from a partner than those who had not been spanked.
“People generalize that the use of coercion, physical coercion, is okay. They learn that from people they love and respect - their parents,” said Straus, who presented the findings at a summit of the American Psychological Association.
Both men and women who had experienced corporal punishment as children were less than 10 percent more likely than those who had not been spanked to verbally coerce sex from a partner.
Straus said studies have shown that corporal punishment leads to low self control and self esteem, as well as aggressiveness, antisocial personalities and the understanding that violence is okay which may lead to sexual coercion.
He added that there are alternative ways to discipline children that work better and do not have side effects.
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