An Examination of Parents' Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) History and Reported Spanking of Their Child: Informing Child Maltreatment Prevention Efforts

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Aug 25;19(17):10580. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191710580.


The current evidence indicates that spanking is harmful to children's health and development and should never be used by parents or other caregivers. However, the critical factors that inform effective spanking prevention strategies are still not well understood. The objective of the current study was to determine if a parent's own adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) history was associated with increased likelihood of reporting their child being spanked at age 10 or younger. Data were drawn from the Well-Being and Experiences Study (the WE Study), a community survey of parents and adolescents from 2017-2018 (N = 1000) from Canada. The results indicated that a parent's own history of physical abuse, emotional abuse, spanking, and household mental illness in childhood were associated with an increased likelihood that their child would have been spanked. These findings indicate that a parent's ACEs history may be related to how their own child is parented and identify families who may be more likely to rely on spanking. Preventing physical punishment is necessary for healthy child development, reducing the risk of further violence, and upholding children's rights to protection. Parent's ACEs history may be an important factor to consider when developing and implementing child maltreatment prevention efforts.

Keywords: adverse childhood experiences (ACEs); child abuse; child maltreatment; corporal punishment; household challenges; peer victimization; physical punishment; spanking; violence against children.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Physical Abuse
  • Punishment / psychology

Grants and funding

Preparation of this article was supported by a Tier I Canada Research Chair in Childhood Adversity and Resilience (Afifi), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Foundation Grant (Afifi), the Royal-Mach-Gaensslen Prize for Mental Health Research (Afifi), and the CIHR Gold Leaf Award (Afifi).