Spanking naughty children increases their risk of depression and becoming hooked on illegal drugs, a new study confirms.
Researchers also found the violent practice leaves a lasting impact on youngsters and makes them more likely to become suicidal.
The findings, based on data from 8,300 adults, has prompted calls for spanking to be considered as bad for children taken through a divorce.
Scientists now stress it is important to crack down on harsh parenting in order to prevent children from being consigned to ‘the blues’.
University of Manotoba experts asked volunteers to complete questionnaires about how often they were spanked as a child.
They were also quizzed about their household background and if an adult inflicted either physical or emotional abuse upon them.
Some 55 percent of respondents reported being spanked, with men and ethnic minorities most likely to have experienced it.
Those reporting exposure to spanking had increased odds of depression and other mental health problems, the study in Child Abuse & Neglect showed.
Researchers, led by Dr Andrew Grogan-Kaylor and Dr Shawna Lee, note spanking should be considered an adverse childhood experience.
They suggested this because it involves the use of force and infliction of pain, and is linked to poor mental health outcomes.
This would put spanking into the same bracket as abuse, neglect and household dysfunction, which includes divorce and an incarcerated relative.
Dr Grogan-Kaylor said: ‘Placing spanking in a similar category to abuse experiences would increase our understanding of these adult mental health problems.’
Spanking is defined as using physical force with the intention of causing a child to experience pain, but not injury, to correct their behavior.
Parents have long argued it is their prerogative if they wish to smack their child to keep them in line and teach them right from wrong.
However, thousands of campaigners have dismissed their claims and state it is wrong to cause any degree of pain to youngsters.
Their furious demands have seen the disciplinary method made illegal in the UK – except for ‘reasonable punishment’.
Parents or carers can be prosecuted if they wound their child or cause harm under the laws introduced 13 years ago.
In the US, similar laws are in place preventing children from being heavily injured as a result of corporal punishment.