In a recent study conducted by Tracie Afifi, PhD, of the departments of community health sciences, psychiatry and family social sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada, potential associations between harsh physical punishment (i.e., pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping and hitting) independent of severe child maltreatment (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect and exposure to intimate partner violence) and various health conditions were examined.
“The findings from the current study are novel and support the hypothesis that harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatment is associated with higher odds of several adult physical health conditions,” researchers wrote.
They extracted 2004 and 2005 data from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n=34,226) which represented US adults aged 20 years or older.
According to data, harsh physical punishment was associated with greater probability of developing CVD with borderline significance, arthritis and obesity. These associations were consistent after adjustments for sociodemographic variables, family history of dysfunction and Axis I and II mental disorders, with odds ratios ranging from 1.20 to 1.30.
“Child maltreatment compared with no harsh physical punishment or child maltreatment was associated with high odds of all physical health outcomes,” researchers wrote. “Notably, when harsh physical punishment and child maltreatment categories were compared, no statistically significant differences were found for any of the eight physical conditions.”
According to researchers, these findings are consistent with the current literature. Afifi and colleagues recommend positive parenting approaches and nonphysical disciplinary methods to promote healthy child development.