According to research conducted at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte‑Justine Research Centre in partnership with researchers from Stanford University, “yelling, shaking, hitting and getting angry” at kids repeatedly has been found to be linked to smaller structures in their brain.
A press release from the official news channel of University of Montreal mentions the results of the research, noting that harsh parenting practices “are common and even socially-acceptable worldwide”. In 2014, The Brookings Institution, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit public policy organisation had reported that 81 per cent of parents in the US believed spanking their children is “sometimes appropriate”.
As mentioned earlier, taking a harsh approach to parenting can cause an impact that can last beyond childhood. “The implications go beyond changes in the brain. I think what’s important is for parents and society to understand that the frequent use of harsh parenting practices can harm a child’s development,” lead author and neuropsychology researcher Sabrina Suffren, Ph.D., was quoted as saying in a statement.
“We’re talking about their social and emotional development, as well as their brain development.”
For the study, researchers had noticed smaller prefrontal cortexes and amygdala in adolescents who had experienced harsh parenting practices in childhood. It was found to be consistent with the findings in previous studies for brain structures in children. Additionally, this was the case despite children not experiencing more serious abuses.
It is a known fact that the prefrontal cortex and amygdala are crucial areas of the brain, and help with stress response, besides aiding learning and memory. They also play pivotal roles in regulating emotions and dealing with anxiety, depression, and grief.
Suffren also said that the findings are “both significant and new”, for it is the “first time that harsh parenting practices that fall short of serious abuse, have been linked to decreased brain structure size, similar to what we see in victims of serious acts of abuse”.