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. Results
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.