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One year olds commonly spanked

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University of Michigan study finds 30% of one year old children were spanked

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Spanking is one of the most common forms of punishment in the United States and the most controversial topic. New research has just shown that spanking one year olds is becoming a common practice, more common than one would think.

The majority of U.S. parents spank their children, often beginning when their children are very young. This young age is so young that child has not even taken their first steps.

Dr. Shawna J. Lee, PhD, assistant professor at the School of Social Work and a faculty affiliate at the Institute for Social Research, Research Center for Group Dynamics, at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor and corresponding author of this new along with colleagues Dr. Andrew Grogan-Kaylor, associate professor of social work, U of M; Ann Arbor and Dr. Lawrence Berger, PhD, Doctoral Program Chair and Professor School of Social Work at the University of Wisconsin; Madison in a prospective analysis 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 (child protective services) involvement between age one and age five.

The researchers examined 2,788 families who participated in a longitudinal study of new births in urban areas.

The results indicated that 30% of 1-year-olds were spanked at least once in the past month. Spanking at age one was linked with increased odds of subsequent CPS involvement. During that time 10% of families received at least on CPS visit.

In comparison to non-spanked children, there was a 33% greater probability of subsequent CPS involvement for children who were spanked at age 1.

The researchers write “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.”

Dr.’s Lee and Grogan-Kaylor say that spanking babies is particularly misguided and potentially harmful, and may set off a cascade of inappropriate parental behavior. Their research is a snapshot of a larger problem: many people lack parenting skills that include alternatives to spanking.

"Intervention to reduce or eliminate spanking has the potential to contribute to the well-being of families and children who are at-risk of becoming involved with the (social services) system," commented Dr. Lee.

The researchers note perinatal well-baby clinical visits and home visitations after the child's birth are opportunities for pediatricians, nurses and social workers to talk to parents about alternatives to spanking babies and toddlers.

This study appears in the current issue of Child Abuse & Neglect.

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