Context: Maternal depression and in-home violence are independently associated with using physical punishment on children; however, the combined impact of these factors is unknown, as is the extent to which their relationship to physical punishment varies with child behavior. <PObjectives: 1) Determine the combined impact of maternal depression and violence exposure on one physical punishment practice, spanking; 2) Explore the role of child behaviors in this relationship.
Methods Multivariable regression analysis of a nationally representative sample of US kindergarten children.
Results: 12,764 mother-child dyads were analyzed. The adjusted odds ratio for spanking among mothers with depressive symptoms was 1.59 (95% CI 1.40, 1.80); among mothers exposed to in-home violence, 1.48 (1.18, 1.85); among dually exposed mothers, 2.51 (1.87, 3.37). Adjusting these models for child self-control or externalizing behavior yielded no change in these associations; no effect modification by child behavior was detected. Among mothers who spanked their children, depression was associated with an increased spanking frequency (aIRR 1.12; 1.01, 1.24); however, this association was reduced to borderline significance when adjusting models for child self-control or externalizing behavior (aIRRs 1.10; 1.00, 1.21). Depressed mothers who were also exposed to violence demonstrated higher rates of spanking (aIRR 1.29; 1.09, 1.53); this remained stable when adjusting for child behaviors.
Conclusion: Maternal depression and violence exposure are associated with spanking as a means of punishment. The magnitude of this association is increased when the two occur together. Child self-control and externalizing behavior do not appear to impact substantially the association between maternal depressive symptoms, violence exposure, and spanking.