Parental spanking of 1-year-old children and subsequent child protective services involvement

Child Abuse Negl. 2014 May;38(5):875-83. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.01.018. Epub 2014 Mar 3.


The majority of U.S. parents spank their children, often beginning when their children are very young. We examined families (N=2,788) who participated in a longitudinal community-based study of new births in urban areas. Prospective analyses examined whether spanking by the child's mother, father, or mother's current partner when the child was 1-year-old was associated with household CPS involvement between age 1 and age 5. Results indicated that 30% of 1-year-olds were spanked at least once in the past month. Spanking at age 1 was associated with increased odds of subsequent CPS involvement (adjusted odds ratio=1.36, 95% CI [1.08, 1.71], p<.01). When compared to non-spanked children, there was a 33% greater probability of subsequent CPS involvement for children who were spanked at age 1. Given the undesirable consequences of spanking children and a lack of empirical evidence to suggest positive effects of physical punishment, professionals who work with families should counsel parents not to spank infants and toddlers. For optimal benefits, efforts to educate parents regarding alternative forms of discipline should begin during the child's first year of life.

Keywords: Abuse; Corporal punishment; Discipline; Fragile families; Infant; Maltreatment; Physical punishment.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attitude to Health
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Child Rearing / psychology*
  • Child Welfare / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fathers / psychology
  • Fathers / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data
  • Prospective Studies
  • Punishment*
  • Urban Health