Abstract: Corporal Punishment, Physical Abuse, and Children's Behavior Problems in South Korea (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

527P Corporal Punishment, Physical Abuse, and Children's Behavior Problems in South Korea

Saturday, January 18, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 6 (ML 2) (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Julie Ma, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Michigan-Flint, Flint, MI
Yoonsun Han, PhD, Assistant Professor, Seoul National University, Seoul, Korea, Republic of (South)
Background:  Hitting children for disciplinary purposes is a common parenting practice in South Korea (hereafter, Korea). A robust literature has shown that parental corporal punishment predicts both increased levels of behavior problems and higher risk of experiencing maltreatment. However, in 2011, nearly six out of ten 2nd graders in Korea were physically punished for misbehaving and half of Korean 2nd graders experienced physically abusive parenting behavior that left them with a wound or a bruise. The legitimacy and prevalence of corporal punishment in Korea are largely grounded in Confucianism and patriarchal family values, which place a strong emphasis on parental authority. However, research on corporal punishment and abusive parenting in the Korean context is scarce and the relationship between ordinary use of corporal punishment as a method of discipline and physical abuse in a context that widely endorses corporal punishment is unclear. To fill this gap, this study examines the associations between parental corporal punishment and behavior problems and the association of corporal punishment with physical abuse.

Methods:  Data were obtained from the 1st grade cohort of the 2010 Korean Child and Youth Panel Survey (KCYPS), a national sample of Korean children who attended 1st grade in 2010 (Wave 1). The KCYPS surveyed focal children and their families yearly until the children reached 7th grade (Wave 7) in 2016. The present analysis was based on 2,112 children. Children reported whether their parents used corporal punishment and whether their parents hit them so badly that they were injured or bruised. Aggressive behavior (6 items) and depression (10 items) were reported by parents at the first two waves and subsequently, by children. Covariates included parental warmth, parental life satisfaction, neighborhood collective efficacy, and child and family demographics. We employed two fixed-effects regression models that controlled for all time-invariant characteristics in the analyses. Model 1 and Model 2 examined whether corporal punishment and physical abuse predicted changes in behavior problems. Model 3 examined the association of corporal punishment with physical abuse.   

Results:  Model 1 and Model 2 indicate that both corporal punishment and physical abuse predict higher levels of aggressive behavior (β = .062, p < .01; β = .048, p < .05) and depression (β = .052, p < .01; β = .080, p < .001), after controlling for the covariates and all time-invariant characteristics. Model 3 shows that corporal punishment is associated with increased risk for physical abuse (β = .598, p < .001), even after holding children’s behavior problems, the covariates, and time-invariant child and family characteristics constant. 

Conclusions and Implications:  These findings suggest that corporal punishment is a risk for behavior problems and physical abuse in Korea, a context in which corporal punishment is considered a normative parenting practice. Interventions need to change norms around parental corporal punishment and promote alternative, non-physical disciplinary practices in Korea. Furthermore, legislative efforts should be directed towards legal reforms that prohibit the use of harsh parenting practices such as severe corporal punishment against children that may lead to physical abuse.