Depressed Moms in Violent Homes Twice as Likely to Hit Kids

Spousal arguing also increased frequency with which mothers slapped children, study says

THURSDAY, Sept. 11, 2008 (HealthDay News) -- Mothers who are depressed and have violent arguments with their partner are more than twice as likely to physically punish their children than mothers with either factor alone, says a U.S. study.

The study, which included almost 13,000 mothers of kindergarten-aged children, found more than 10,000 of the women were neither depressed nor experienced violence in the home. About 1,700 were depressed, but reported no violence, and almost 500 did experience violence in the home, but weren't depressed. Only 236 women in the study were depressed and exposed to violence at home.

The researchers found that one in four mothers who weren't depressed nor exposed to violence said they disciplined their children by hitting them, compared with one in three of those who were depressed or exposed to violence, and one in two of those with both factors.

Compared to mothers without depression or violence in the home, mothers with depression were almost 60 percent more likely to smack their children, those with violent arguments with partners but no depression were almost 50 percent more likely to hit their children, and those with both factors were 250 percent more likely to strike their children.

These patterns were true irrespective of children's behavior, said the study, which was published online ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Previous research has suggested that physical punishment of children early in life may predispose them to behavioral problems as adults, noted the study authors, who added that corporal punishment remains a hotly debated topic, even among pediatricians.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about child discipline.

SOURCE: British Medical Journal, news release, Sept. 11, 2008
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