A brief intervention affects parents' attitudes toward using less physical punishment

Child Abuse Negl. 2013 Dec;37(12):1192-201. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.06.003. Epub 2013 Jul 13.


Consecutive English and Spanish speaking caregivers of 6-24 month old children were randomly assigned to either a control or intervention group. Parents in the intervention group were instructed to view at least 4 options to discipline a child in an interactive multimedia program. The control group participants received routine primary care with their resident physician. After the clinic visit, all parents were invited to participate in a research study; the participation rate was 98% (258/263). The key measure was the Attitudes Toward Spanking (ATS) scale. The ATS is correlated with parents' actual use of physical punishment. Parents with higher scores are more likely to use physical punishment to discipline their children. Parents in the intervention group had an ATS score that was significantly lower than the ATS score of parents in the control group (median=24.0, vs. median=30; p=0.043). Parents in the control group were 2 times more likely to report that they would spank a child who was misbehaving compared with parents in the intervention group (16.9% vs. 7.0%, p=0.015). In the short-term, a brief intervention, integrated into the primary care visit, can affect parents' attitudes toward using less physical punishment. It may be feasible to teach parents to not use physical punishment using a population-based approach. The findings have implications for how to improve primary care services and the prevention of violence.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01459510.

Keywords: Aggression; Child abuse; Counseling; Education; Parenting; Violence.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aggression
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Behavior*
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Counseling
  • Domestic Violence / prevention & control*
  • Domestic Violence / psychology
  • Education
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations
  • Parenting / psychology*
  • Primary Health Care
  • Punishment / psychology*
  • Young Adult

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01459510