Method: Data were from 2,020 mothers who participated in the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal, community-based study of urban families. Logistic regression analyses examined whether any instance of spanking the child in the prior month, measured when the child was one year of age, was associated with household CPS involvement at any point since the child's birth, measured when the child was five years of age. Models controlled for a comprehensive set of demographic, maternal psychosocial, and household characteristics.
Results: 30% of one year old children had been spanked at least once in the past month by their mother, father, or the mother's current partner. Spanking at age one was associated with 34% increased odds of household CPS involvement (OR = 1.34, p < .05). Other parenting risk factors for CPS involvement included maternal depression (OR = 1.91, p < .001) and parenting stress (OR = 1.25, p < .01).
Implications: Even after accounting for numerous household and parenting risk factors, parental spanking of children at age one was associated with increased risk for family child welfare services involvement. Implications include the need for widespread screening of parents during well baby doctor visits during the first year of life and parental education regarding the consequences of spanking in early childhood. To prevent further instances of maltreatment, programs targeting at-risk parents or parents already involved with child welfare must educate parents regarding non-violent alternative forms of child discipline.