Child Abuse, Spanking and Adult Dating Violence: A Replication Study of Temple et al., 2018


The issue of whether spanking does or does not contribute to later aggression remains controversial despite public policy statements by the American Academy of Pediatrics and other groups opposing spanking. Studies have remained inconsistent regarding whether spanking does or does not contribute to later aggression. One study, Temple et al., 2018, released results from an adult retrospective study suggesting that spanking and related corporal punishment could predict adult dating violence, but that actual physical child abuse exposure did not. This current study attempted to replicate this unusual finding using similar methodologies. Current results did not replicate the findings of Temple et al., 2018. Exposure to child physical abuse predicted adult dating violence, but exposure to spanking and related corporal punishment did not. These results suggest it may be premature to link spanking to aggression in adulthood.

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Correspondence to Christopher J. Ferguson.

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What’s Known: Current data regarding spanking effects on aggression remain controversial despite decades of research. Most prior research has not clearly distinguished child physical abuse from spanking.

What’s New: This study replicates a prior study (Temple et al., 2018) which found that spanking, but not physical abuse, predicted adult dating violence. Replication results suggest the opposite, namely that physical abuse but not spanking predicts adult dating violence.

What’s Relevant: Child physical abuse, but not spanking is related to adult dating violence in a replication study of prior research. Future policy on spanking should be cautious to note differences between spanking and more severe corporal punishment.

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Ferguson, C.J. Child Abuse, Spanking and Adult Dating Violence: A Replication Study of Temple et al., 2018. Psychiatr Q 91, 835–840 (2020).

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  • Spanking
  • Corporal punishment
  • Child abuse
  • Dating violence
  • Aggression