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Slapping/spanking is related to a number of poor health outcomes. Understanding what factors are related to the increased or decreased use of spanking/slapping is necessary to inform prevention. This study used a population-based sample to determine the prevalence of slapping/spanking reported by youth; the relationship between sociodemographic factors and slapping/spanking; and the extent to which parental exposures to victimization and maltreatment in childhood and current parental mental health, substance use and family circumstances, are associated with youth reports of slapping/spanking.
Data were from the 2014 Ontario Child Health Study, a provincially representative sample of households with children and youth aged 4–17 years. Self-reported lifetime slapping/spanking prevalence was determined using a sub-sample of youth aged 14–17 years (n = 1883). Parents/primary caregivers (i.e., person most knowledgeable (PMK) of the youth) self-reported their own childhood experiences including bullying victimization, slapping/spanking and child maltreatment, and current mental health, substance use and family circumstances including mental health functioning and emotional well-being, alcohol use, smoking, marital conflict and family functioning. Analyses were conducted in 2018.
Living in urban compared to rural residence and family poverty were associated with decreased odds of slapping/spanking. PMK childhood experiences of physical and verbal bullying victimization, spanking, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and exposure to physical intimate partner violence were associated with increased odds of youth reported slapping/spanking (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] ranged from 1.33–1.77). PMK experiences of physical abuse and exposure to emotional/verbal intimate partner violence in childhood was associated with decreased odds of youth reported slapping/spanking (AOR = 0.72 and 0.88, respectively). PMK’s higher levels of marital conflict, languishing to moderate mental health functioning and emotional well-being, and moderate or greater alcohol use were associated with increased odds of youth reported slapping/spanking (AOR ranged from 1.36–1.61).
It may be important to consider parent/primary caregiver’s childhood experiences with victimization and maltreatment along with their current parental mental health, substance use and family circumstances when developing and testing strategies to prevent slapping/spanking.