ISR Awards

Spanking and hitting children: Trends and changes in risk factors in consecutive, longitudinal, national samples of parents from 1993-2022

Corporal punishment (e.g. spanking) and physical abuse are related to developmental and health consequences for children, including mental health and substance use disorders. Knowledge of current trends and risk factors for parental violence is needed to inform policy and clinical practice, and is critical for understanding which families may benefit most from targeted prevention efforts. Previous studies have been unable to provide this knowledge because of limited longitudinal data and a predominant reliance on one-time cross-sectional surveys. Further, research over the past half-century has identified a wide range of risk factors for parental physical violence (e.g., substance use, previous experiences with violence, poor mental health), but no previous research has examined whether risk factors for violence have changed over time. This R03 addresses these critical gaps using untapped data from the NIH-funded Monitoring the Future (MTF) study. MTF is the only annually-repeated survey with measures of spanking and hitting a child and, therefore, the only data available to answer the questions proposed in this R03. The long-term goals of this research are to capitalize on existing investments in the MTF study to rigorously surveil trends in parental physical violence and to examine risk factors for violence over time. The overall objectives in this study are to (1) examine trends in parental physical violence, including through the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) investigate whether concurrent or prospective risk factors for violence have remained constant or changed across recent decades, including during the pandemic. The total sample (n~18,300) will include parents from 29 consecutive cohorts, followed longitudinally, who reached the age of 35 year from 1993 (1st cohort) to 2021 (29th cohort). This R03 includes three aims: (Aim 1) Examine the long-term trends of parental physical violence, using Joinpoint models; (Aim 2) Identify parental characteristics associated with the greatest risk for physical violence toward children, using longitudinal regression and path models; and (Aim 3) Determine whether ? and in what ways ? risk factors for violence have changed over time, using time-varying effect modeling. The successful completion of this R03 will contribute significantly to the field?s understanding of current trends and risk factors for violence. This study is all-the-more timely due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the inclusion of data through 2022 will enable examination of changes in trends or risk factors associated with the pandemic. This study is novel in the use of longitudinal data from annually repeated surveys containing parental violence measures and in the analytic methods used. This study will generate knowledge that can immediately inform policy, clinical practice, and prevention efforts in support of healthy child development.


University of Minnesota

Funding Period:

08/01/2022 to 07/31/2024