Associations between spanking beliefs and reported spanking among adolescents-parent/caregiver dyads in a Canadian sample

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Afifi, Tracie O.
Salmon, Samantha
Stewart-Tufescu, Ashley
Taillieu, Tamara
Fortier, Janique
MacMillan, Harriet
Durrant, Joan
Holden, George W.
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Abstract Background Research consistently demonstrates that physical punishment of children including “spanking” is harmful. Interest in effective prevention is growing rapidly. The aim of the current study is to examine spanking beliefs among adolescents and parents in relation to reports of spanking that the adolescents experienced before 11 years of age. Methods Data were drawn from Wave 1 of a study conducted in 2017–2018 that included adolescents (14–17 years old) and one of their parents/caregivers from Manitoba, Canada (n = 1000 pairs). The study objectives were to examine: 1) spanking beliefs of adolescents and their parents; 2) the correlation between parent and adolescent spanking beliefs; 3) whether parents perceive the words “spank” vs. “hit” differently using intraclass correlation; 4) the association between parents’ beliefs about spanking and parent- and adolescent-reported use of it; and 5) the relationship between sociodemographic variables and spanking. The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, Spearman’s correlation, intraclass correlation, and binary and multinomial logistic regression analyses. Results The prevalence of adolescent-reported and parents’-reported spanking were 46.0% and 39.6%, respectively. The proportions agreeing that spanking is a normal part of parenting were similar among adolescents (22.0%) and parents (18.5%), and were moderately correlated (intraclass correlation = 0.38, SE = 0.038). More than five times as many parents believed that “spanking” is necessary (19.5%) than believed that “hitting” is necessary (3.5%). Parents’ positive spanking beliefs were associated with increased likelihood of adolescent- and parent-reported spanking. Few significant associations were found between sociodemographic variables and parent-reported or adolescent-reported spanking. Conclusions Adolescents’ spanking beliefs are related to their parents’ spanking beliefs, suggesting that they are transmitted across generations. Public education and law reform are needed to decrease the normalization and perceived necessity of spanking in child-rearing. Efforts should include improving the understanding that spanking is a form of violence against children. With only a few significant differences noted between sociodemographic variables and parent- and adolescent- reported spanking and the prevalent use of spanking across all sociodemographic variable categories, it may be useful to develop universal approaches to awareness-raising and implementation of education strategies in Canada.
BMC Public Health. 2022 Mar 12;22(1):493