Maternal Factors Linked to Likelihood of Spanking

Moms with depression, exposure to violence in the home more likely to spank their children
By Eric Metcalf
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Sept. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers with depression or exposure to partner violence are more likely to spank their children, according to research published online Sept. 11 in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Michael Silverstein, M.D., of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues analyzed data from 12,764 mother-child pairs participating in a nationally representative study, with study variables collected during the children's kindergarten year. Mothers responded to a 12-item depression scale survey, and answered questions regarding partner violence and the frequency of child spanking in the previous week.

The adjusted odds ratio for spanking among depressed mothers was 1.59 and for mothers exposed to partner violence was 1.48, the researchers report. For mothers with both exposures, the adjusted odds ratio for spanking was 2.51. Adjusting the findings for children's self-control or externalizing behaviors -- measured by teacher report -- didn't cause clinically significant changes in the associations.

"We believe that our study offers further evidence for the combined adverse effects of maternal depression and violence exposure on the children of affected women. Our data suggest that these common, and potentially modifiable, risk factors are more apt to affect whether or not a mother uses [spanking] to discipline her children than they are to affect the frequency of [spanking]. Although the relationship between parent and child-level factors relative to punishment practices is complex, our data suggest that meaningful associations between maternal depression, violence exposure and [spanking] persist in the face of varying child behaviors," the authors write.

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