Parents who are aggressive or violent toward one another are more likely to spank their children, according to new data from the national Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study. Published online August 23, 2010, in the journal Pediatrics, the report from researchers at Tulane University analyzed data from almost 2,000 low-income families living in large US cities. According to self-reports from families, the odds of both parents spanking a child were almost double when either parent was a victim of interpersonal violence or aggression. When both parents were victims of violence, the odds that the child was spanked were more than double.
The study’s authors pointed out that unlike some other studies that have been done on domestic violence and the choice to spank, this study focused on what some might consider more minor aggressive behaviors between parents.
As a Los Angeles Times article on the study points out, 65 percent of the children were spanked by one or both parents in the previous month: 12.7 percent by the father, 23.5 percent by the mother, and 29.1 percent by both. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, corporal punishment (spanking) is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects. (Other studies have shown that children who are spanked at a young age may go on to display more aggressive behaviors later on in life.) The AAP recommends that parents be encouraged to develop of methods other than spanking for dealing with a child’s misbehavior.