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Spanking and hitting children: Trends and changes in risk factors in consecutive, longitudinal, national samples of parents from 1993-2022

The long-term goals of this research are to capitalize on existing investments in the Monitoring the Future (MTF) study – the only annual survey with measures of spanking and hitting a child – to rigorously surveil trends in parental physical violence and to examine risk factors for violence over time. The overall objectives in this project are to (1) examine trends in parental physical violence, including through the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) investigate whether concurrent or prospective risk factors for violence have remained constant or changed across recent decades, including during the pandemic. The total sample (n~18,300) will include parents from 29 consecutive cohorts, followed longitudinally, who reached the age of 35 year from 1993 (1st cohort) to 2021 (29th cohort). This project has three aims:

  1. Examine the long-term trends of parental physical violence, using Joinpoint models;
  2. Identify parental characteristics associated with the greatest risk for physical violence toward children, using longitudinal regression and path models; and
  3. Determine whether – and in what ways – risk factors for violence have changed over time, using time-varying effect modeling. The successful completion of this R03 will contribute significantly to the field’s understanding of current trends and risk factors for violence.

This study is all-the-more timely due to the COVID-19 pandemic; the inclusion of data through 2022 will enable examination of changes in trends or risk factors associated with the pandemic.