Method: The study used a sample of 4,287 children and youth, ages 0 to 14, from the five waves of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (2000, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2008). Dependent variable is the number of times mothers spanked their children in the past week. Independent variables in the model include the following: Children's scores from the Behavior Problems Index; family poverty; mother's health and marital status; community resources (afterschool daycare, recreational centers); and maternal perceptions of neighborhood safety. Covariates include child and mother demographics. Models were estimated using hierarchal linear modeling (HLM) in STATA 11SE to trace the patterns nested inside individual children over time.
Results: Child's age, race, and BPI scores were significantly associated with corporal punishment over time. Younger children, African American, and Hispanic children, and those with behavior problems received more spankings (p<0.001). Poor mothers also appeared to spank their children more (p<0.001); this was the only maternal factor to achieve significance in the model. As for neighborhood variables, the use of community resources did not significantly decrease the number of spankings children received over time. However, mothers who reported their neighborhood is safe for raising children spanked their children less (p<0.05). Lastly, the likelihood-ratio tests indicate that HLM adds more explanatory power to the model compared to OLS (p<0.001). This lends support for accounting for the random variations in the intercept by the individual child, capturing the story that each child starts from a different point
Implications: Our results support the importance of examining child, mother, and neighborhood characteristics in understanding the use of corporal punishment. This study addresses the gaps in research by providing a longitudinal repeated measures analysis, accounting not only for how certain characteristics affect corporal punishment over time, but also for whether individual children, with their unique set of characteristics, have another layer of impact on corporal punishment. Our findings suggest that child welfare professionals and practitioners should provide developmentally and culturally appropriate services, as alternative disciplinary methods will go unused if we do not understand the different norms and beliefs about corporal punishment and why families tend to use this type of discipline over others. Moreover, professionals should provide needed social services for low-income mothers to assist them in coping with stressors associated with poverty and perceptions of neighborhood as unsafe, which can mitigate the likelihood of corporal punishment.