News Release

Spanking related to other forms of discipline, intimate partner violence

Study during COVID-19 finds associations between intimate partner violence and spanking

Reports and Proceedings

American Academy of Pediatrics

ANAHEIM, CA.—Spanking is more common among parents who report using many types of discipline with children and in families where there is intimate partner violence, according to a new research abstract presented during the 2022 American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) National Conference & Exhibition.

Authors of the abstract, “Predictors of Corporal Punishment During the COVID-19 Pandemic: National Survey Findings,” found that 64.5% of caregivers who reported spanking their child or children also reported intimate partner violence. The study found that caregivers who used an increased number of non-violent discipline strategies like timeouts had increased odds of using corporal punishment.

“Caregivers want what is best for their children. Our data suggest that caregivers are utilizing many forms of non-aggressive discipline; however, those strategies might not be working for them,” said Dr. J. Bart Klika, Chief Research Officer, Prevent Child Abuse America. “For those working directly with families, we cannot simply give caregivers a list of discipline strategies. Instead, we must talk with caregivers about how to use those non-aggressive strategies in developmentally appropriate ways. During follow-up visits, our question should be about the effectiveness of those strategies, not only asking what strategies were used.”

The AAP, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Tufts Medical Center, surveyed 9,000 caregivers to understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on family life and parenting practices. Three rounds of surveys (with 3,000 different caregivers in each survey) were conducted by YouGov between November 2020 and July 2021. The survey asked caregivers about financial stress, employment changes, family violence, positive and negative coping strategies for stress and discipline methods.

Participants were asked about the use of corporal punishment in the past week and other forms of violence in the home. Most caregivers (83.5%) reported not spanking their child or children in the past seven days. However, one in six reported spanking during this timeframe.

“It’s vital to consider everyone’s safety in the home if a parent reports that they hit or spank a child, as intimate partner violence may also be present,” Dr. Klika said. “Understanding the co-occurrence of corporal punishment and intimate partner violence is especially important for health care workers and doctors. This knowledge can help providers assess for violence in the home and provide appropriate supports and resources for families.”

 Study authors found that this information can be helpful in assisting providers to talk with families about discipline and violence in the home, but that additional research is needed to understand why caregivers using multiple discipline strategies turned to spanking.

 This research project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 Dr. J. Bart Klika is scheduled to present a poster of the study, available below, between 2-3 p.m. PT Sunday, Oct. 9, during the Council on Child Abuse and Neglect (10 AM – 6 PM). To request an interview with the author, journalists may contact Dr. Klika at  

Please note: only the abstract is being presented at the meeting. In some cases, the researcher may have more data available to share with media, or may be preparing a longer article for submission to a journal. 


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The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 67,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. For more information, visit Reporters can access the meeting program and other relevant meeting information through the AAP meeting website at



Abstract Title: Predictors of corporal punishment during the COVID-19 pandemic: National survey findings

Chicago, IL, United States

Jeffry Klika

Corporal punishment (i.e., spanking, popping, smacking, whooping) is a known risk factor for child abuse and neglect. Corporal punishment is associated with negative outcomes, similar to those of children who experience physical abuse. Studies have demonstrated that while reported rates of corporal punishment use by caregivers in the later 90s was as high as 90%, more recent studies have found that use of corporal punishment is closer to 50%. While this declining trend gives reasons for optimism, use of corporal punishment remains unacceptably high. The COVID-19 pandemic increased stress for families. Many were concerned about how caregivers managed their increased stress while parenting children in their home during the pandemic. Concerns regarding harsh discipline practices, such as corporal punishment, heightened as the pandemic progressed. In this study, we surveyed a national sample of US caregivers to understand parenting practices during the COVID-19 pandemic. The question and hypothesis guiding the current analysis is as follows: 1. What factors are associated with an increased likelihood for corporal punishment during the COVID-19 pandemic? Our hypothesis was that factors such as intimate partner violence (IPV) and a caregivers report of adverse childhood experiences (ACE) would increase the likelihood of corporal punishment, while the use of non-aggressive discipline would decrease the likelihood of corporal punishment.

National surveys of caregivers over the age of 18 years were conducted in November 2020, March 2021, and July 2021 using an opt-in internet panel through Each survey included 3,000 adults, for an overall sample of 9,000. Participants were asked about use of corporal punishment in the past two weeks, in addition to questions regarding other forms of violence in the home, and coping strategies. Descriptive and multivariate analysis was conducted using SPSS and adjusted for gender, race, region of the country, number of children in the home, and survey wave.

Approximately 16% of caregivers reported using corporal punishment in the two weeks prior to the survey. Consistent with our original hypotheses, IPV was associated with an increased likelihood of corporal punishment (OR= 4.08, 95% CI [3.38, 4.92]) however, parental experiences of ACE’s were not a significant predictor of corporal punishment. Counter to our hypothesis regarding non-aggressive discipline strategies, analyses indicated an increased likelihood of corporal punishment with an increased number of non-aggressive discipline strategies utilized (OR= 7.07, 95% CI [5.09, 9.82]).

IPV was associated with increased likelihood of corporal punishment as was the use of numerous non-aggressive discipline strategies. These findings have direct implications for pediatric practice in terms of screening for violence in the home (i.e., IPV, corporal punishment) and also in helping pediatricians talk to families about the types of discipline used in the home, and the effectiveness of these methods.



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