Researchers are warning parents against using physical force to discipline their kids, after establishing a link between spanking and increased incidences of violence in relationships in adulthood.

Behavioural scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch conducted research on 758 young adults aged 19-20 – whom they started studying when they were 14-16 – and found that children who had been spanked during their childhood were more likely to be physically violent in adult relationships.

Data from the study found that 19% of respondents admitted to being violent towards their romantic partners, while 68% reported to have experienced corporal punishment as a child.

READ MORE: Spanking your kids could lead to mental health problems

“We know that experiencing adverse child events (ACE) is linked to a host of short and long-term mental and physical health problems and spanking should be considered an ACE. The study is just one piece of evidence, but it adds to the growing body of literature that indicates spanking should be considered an ACE,” lead study author Professor Jeff Temple was quoted telling IFLScience.

“Kids who said they had experienced corporal punishment were more likely to have recently committed dating violence.”

Previous research has shown the adverse effect that spanking has on a child’s mental health, their social behaviour and their cognitive ability later on in life.

Some of the negative developmental outcomes that have been linked to spanking include increased aggression, heightened anti-social behaviour, lower cognitive ability, a more negative relationship with parents, increased internalising as well as externalising of problems and lower self-esteem.

American Academy of Paediatricians spokesman Bob Sege says children hold their parents in the highest regard and ultimately learn their social norms, behaviours and how to interact with people from them. When you spank them, it confuses the “boundaries between love and violence for children while they are learning how to treat others”.

READ MORE: Many SA parents still believe in spanking

Boston University Associate Professor Emily Rothman says a child who has experienced some form of aggression towards them has an increased chance of reverting back to behaviours experienced as a child during adulthood.

“The experience of having someone direct aggression to you increases the likelihood that you’ll fall back on aggression when in a ‘flight or fight’ moment. Having been hit by the parent can elevate stress and reduces a child’s coping skills so they may lash out,” Rothman was quoted saying in a CNN report.