Methods: The FFCWS is a national longitudinal cohort study that has collected data from families (mothers and fathers) in 20 large US cities since 1998 and oversampled for non-marital births. Family baseline interviews were conducted at the time of an index child's birth (n=4898). Mother and father Year 3 interviews were completed for 65% of the baseline sample (n=3165). In the current study, mother and father self-reports at Year 3 provide information on family IPV patterns, including both physical and psychological aggression; all IPV data was skipped or missing for 10.5% of this sample leaving (n=2832) for analyses. Each parent also reported on their own use of spanking against the child.
Results: About 75% of couples reported some form of IPV: 34% reported bi-directional (i.e., both mother and father reported victimization by the other), 24% only fathers reported being victims, and 17% only mothers reported being victims. About half (53%) of mothers reported spanking their children; however, about 58% of both the bidirectional IPV group and the only father perpetrated IPV group spanked whereas only 44% of those who experienced no IPV did (chi-square =36.6 (3), p<0.000). About 38% of fathers reported spanking their children; however, 41% of the bidirectional IPV group and 45% of the only mother perpetrated IPV group spanked whereas only 35% of those who experienced no IPV did (chi-square=36.1 (3), p<0.000).
Conclusions & Implications: Psychological and physical aggression is common among couples and a substantial proportion of this aggression is bi-directional. Bi-directional and uni-directional IPV victimization raise the odds that a parent, mother or father, will spank their child. There is a need for further integration of child welfare and IPV services as well as prevention efforts. These findings suggest that prevention strategies aimed at reducing IPV also will serve to lower risk for corporal punishment and physical maltreatment of children.