Compared to mothers who don't spank their children, mothers
who've spanked their child in the past year are three times
more likely to use harsher forms of punishment.
That's the conclusion of a new study from the Injury Prevention
Research Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel
"In addition, increases in the frequency of spanking are
associated with increased odds of abuse, and mothers who report
spanking on the buttocks with an object -- such as a belt
or a switch -- are nine times more likely to report abuse,
compared to mothers who report no spanking," lead author Dr.
Adam J. Zolotor, an assistant professor in the department
of family medicine, said in a university news release.
The researchers' 2002 phone survey of 1,435 mothers in North
Carolina and South Carolina revealed that 45 percent of respondents
said their child had been spanked by themselves or their partner
in the previous year, and 25 percent reported using an object
to spank children on the buttocks. Harsher forms of physical
punishment that met the definition of physical abuse -- including
acts such as beating, burning, kicking, hitting with an object,
or shaking a child younger than 2 years old -- were reported
by 4 percent of respondents.
The study found that while any spanking was associated with
increased risk of abuse, spanking with an object was strongly
associated with abuse. Among mothers who didn't spank their
children, only 2 percent reported physically abusive punishment,
compared with 6 percent of mothers who said they spanked their
children, and 12 percent of mothers who spanked their children
with an object.
The findings were published online and were to be in the
Sept. 17 print issue of the American Journal of Preventive
"This study demonstrated for the first time that parents
who report spanking children with an object and parents who
frequently spank children are much more likely to report other
harsh punishment acts consistent with physical abuse," Zolotor
Efforts to reduce spanking through media, educational and
legislative means may help reduce physical child abuse, Zolotor
and his colleagues concluded.