MONDAY, Aug. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Young children raised in a
household where one or both parents are aggressive or violent
toward each other are more likely to be spanked, new research
The study found that 65 percent of 3-year-olds were spanked at
least once in the previous month, and in families that reported
parental aggression toward another parent, the use of corporal
punishment along with aggression or violence against another parent
occurred in one out of two homes.
"The purpose of the study was to better understand patterns of common aggression and violence in families between parents and also parents' use of spanking with 3-year-olds," said study author Catherine Taylor, an assistant professor of community health sciences at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
"The children who had the highest chance of being spanked had parents who were aggressive or violent to each other, and there was a greater chance of being spanked by the victim of the partner aggression," said Taylor.
Results of the study were published online Aug. 23 and will
appear in the September print issue of the journal
Taylor pointed out that unlike some other studies that have been
done on parental aggression and violence and the use of corporal
punishment, this study focused on what some might consider more
minor aggressive behaviors between parents, rather than violent
"The kind of aggression we're talking about is fairly common psychological aggression and controlling behaviors -- doing things like preventing someone from seeing friends or family or withholding or taking money, or insulting and criticizing the partner," she said.
The study included nearly 2,000 families with a 3-year-old
child. The families were from large cities across the United
States. About 37 percent of the family members were black, about 30
percent were Hispanic and about 28 percent were white.
The mothers' education level broke down about evenly, with
around 27 percent of the women having completed less than high
school, another 27 percent having graduated high school and 27
percent having had some college. Almost 19 percent finished
college. The average income was about $50,000, Taylor said.
The parents were married in 60 percent of the families,
according to the study.
The researchers found that almost two-thirds of the 3-year-olds
had been spanked at least once by one or both parents in the
In homes where both parents were aggressive or violent toward
each other, the odds of a child getting spanked were doubled, the
"It's really not a surprise that if you're violent toward a partner or a partner is violent to you that you're more willing to spank your child. But what's really surprising is that something we know isn't effective with kids is still so accepted and used," said Lori Evans, a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at The Child Study Center at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"It all goes back to the old analogy that while you need a license to drive a car, nobody ever says you should take a basic parenting class before becoming a parent. It's all about prevention, and teaching parents how to cope with stress and teach alternative ways to discipline," Evans said.
Taylor added: "Parents that find themselves in relationships
where there's aggressive or controlling behavior, even if it's
minor, may want to seek counseling for themselves and for the good
of their children. They may not realize how the stress they're
experiencing can play out in how they're choosing to discipline
Learn more about alternative ways to discipline your children
American Academy of Pediatrics.
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