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Childhood Maltreatment and Parental Attitudes Regarding the Use of Corporal Punishment

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Corporal punishment is associated with negative outcomes for children. Increased risk for such adverse parenting practices may be increased for individuals with a history of maltreatment and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms. However, it is unclear whether specific trauma types are associated with worse outcomes. Prior work has found relations between parental history of child physical abuse (CPA) and more positive endorsement of corporal punishment, but less is known about associations between childhood sexual abuse (CSA) and witnessing intimate partner violence (IPV) and views regarding corporal punishment. Further, the DSM-5 PTSD symptom clusters have not been previously examined regarding beliefs about punishment. The aims of the study were to determine whether maltreatment, PTSD symptoms, and the PTSD symptom clusters were related to beliefs about the utilization of corporal punishment. The sample included parents (N = 281; Mage = 36.70 SD = 8.06; 63.3% female; 53.4% White) who were recruited from a university (26.5%) or MTurk (73.5%). The data were collected through questionnaires utilizing survey software and analyzed using regression models. Results: CSA was associated with more positive attitudes toward corporal punishment, β = 0.12; however, CPA and IPV were unrelated to attitudes towards corporal punishment. Higher PTSD symptoms were also linked with more positive corporal punishment beliefs, β = 0.18. When the clusters were examined, none of the symptom clusters were associated with corporal punishment. CSA and PTSD symptoms may be relevant in understanding and improving parenting outcomes and behaviors among trauma-exposed parents.


  • Parents with a history of CSA may have more positive beliefs regarding corporal punishment.

  • Other forms of child maltreatment, such as CPA and witnessing IPV, were not related to a parent’s attitudes about corporal punishment.

  • Higher levels of PTSD symptoms are associated with more positive beliefs about the use of corporal punishment.

  • The DSM-5 PTSD symptom clusters were not individually linked with corporal punishment beliefs.

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Correspondence to Rachel Wamser-Nanney.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Walker, H.E., Diemer, M.C. & Wamser-Nanney, R. Childhood Maltreatment and Parental Attitudes Regarding the Use of Corporal Punishment. J Child Fam Stud 31, 2376–2386 (2022).

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