Methods: We used nationally representative data from the Korean Child and Youth Panel Survey, which surveyed children and their families annually from 2010 (Wave 1) to 2016 (Wave 7) when children attended 1st grade to 7th grade. Our analysis sample was limited to 2,175 children (51.59% male) who provided valid responses to parental physical punishment and physical abuse for three or more waves. We employed latent class growth analysis to identify distinct trajectories for child-reported measures of physical punishment and physical abuse. After identifying latent trajectories as independent variables, we employed multivariate regression to examine the associations of latent trajectories with aggressive behavior (6 items) and depressive symptoms (10 items) at Wave 7, while controlling for parental warmth, parental life satisfaction, neighborhood collective efficacy, and child and family demographics.
Results: We identified five latent classes of physical punishment and physical abuse: low exposure (reference; n = 1,187, 4.6%), steep decrease (n = 291, 13.4%), modest decrease (n = 142, 6.5%), modest increase (n = 381, 17.5%), and steep increase (n = 174, 8%). The reference group showed the lowest levels of physical punishment and physical abuse across all waves. Steep decrease and modest decrease groups showed high levels of physical punishment and physical abuse at initial waves, which gradually decreased. In the modest increase and steep increase groups, exposure to physical punishment and physical abuse were relatively low at initial waves but showed an increasing trend. Also, exposure to physical abuse in these two trajectories exceeded that of physical punishment at Wave 7. Overall, longitudinal changes in physical punishment and physical abuse moved in the same direction. Compared to the reference group, children in the other trajectories exhibited higher levels of aggressive behavior and depression. The magnitude of these associations was largest among children in the steep increase trajectory.
Conclusions and Implications: These findings suggest that distinct trajectories of parenting physical punishment and physical abuse exist in South Korea. Parental physical punishment and physical abuse are risk factors to child behavior problems that are likely to be correlated across middle childhood years. Child abuse prevention and intervention efforts in South Korea should consider the interrelated nature of these parenting behaviors and promote non-physical disciplinary practices in Korea.