Spanking and adult mental health impairment: The case for the designation of spanking as an adverse childhood experience
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Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) such as child abuse are related to poor health outcomes. Spanking has indicated a similar association with health outcomes, but to date has not been considered an ACE. Physical and emotional abuse have been shown in previous research to correlate highly and may be similar in nature to spanking. To determine if spanking should be considered an ACE, this study aimed to examine 1): the grouping of spanking with physical and emotional abuse; and 2) if spanking has similar associations with poor adult health problems and accounts for additional model variance. Adult mental health problems included depressive affect, suicide attempts, moderate to heavy drinking, and street drug use. Data were from the CDC-Kaiser ACE study (N=8316, response rate=65%). Spanking loaded on the same factor as the physical and emotional abuse items. Additionally, spanking was associated with increased odds of suicide attempts (Adjusted Odds Ratios (AOR)=1.37; 95% CI=1.02 to1.86), moderate to heavy drinking (AOR)=1.23; 95% CI=1.07 to 1.41), and the use of street drugs (AOR)=1.32; 95% CI=1.4 to 1.52) in adulthood over and above experiencing physical and emotional abuse. This indicates spanking accounts for additional model variance and improves our understanding of these outcomes. Thus, spanking is empirically similar to physical and emotional abuse and including spanking with abuse adds to our understanding of these mental health problems. Spanking should also be considered an ACE and addressed in efforts to prevent violence.
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