Corporal punishment (CP) and physical abuse (PA) in childhood are associated with increased risk of child-to-parent violence (CPV). Without context of discipline (i.e., the intention of behavior change, and use of reasonable force), both CP and PA represent the use of physical force against a child. It is still unclear if their associations with CPV are similar when they co-occur, or when they occur in isolation. The current study examined the differential and cumulative association of different types of physical force in childhood with rates of CPV.
The sample consisted of 1,132 participants, between 18 to 87-years-old (M = 50.95, SD = 14.24) and included 59.5% female and 39.2% male participants who completed an online survey measuring CP, PA and CPV. Participants formed three groups: low CP or PA (group low), high CP only (group HCP), or high PA and CP (group PA + CP).
Two one-way ANOVAs with planned contrasts were conducted separately for CPV against mothers and fathers. The group HCP reported significantly higher CPV against both the mother and the father than group low and there was no significant difference between group HCP and group PA + CP.
Higher rates of CP are associated with higher rates of CPV; however, this rate does not increase further when there is concurrent PA. This suggests that there may be a low sensitivity for retaliation from a young person, or coercive training (through high parent–child conflict), in environments where there is physical force from a parent.