Results from two surveys shed light on the pandemic’s impact on child discipline and intimate partner violence (IPV). The Family Snapshot surveys include responses from 3,000 parents and caregivers of children under 18 years about the pandemic’s effect on family life. The AAP conducted the surveys in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Tufts Medical Center.
Information in the surveys provide a glimpse into changes in U.S. family life during the pandemic, including how resilience factored in and how families adapted.
One survey asked about emotional and physical IPV. Emotional IPV includes being insulted or humiliated; having money withheld or access to family/friends restricted; or being tracked or threatened by an intimate partner. Physical IPV includes being slapped, pushed, kicked, punched, beaten, choked, burned or threatened with or having a weapon used against you by an intimate partner.
One-fifth of adults reported experiencing IPV, including both men and women. “This is important because witnessing IPV is an ACE (adverse childhood experience) and can have harmful consequences across the lifespan for children,” according to the report.
The second survey also showed those who experienced IPV were far more likely to report that they spanked their children than those who did not experience violence.
The AAP advises parents not to use corporal punishment, including spanking, yelling at or threatening their children.
Because IPV has long-term effects on both the physical and emotional health of children, the AAP recommends that pediatricians screen families at high risk for IPV or screen all families in their care for IPV and provide collaborative, trauma-informed support and referral.
The reports point out key needs that pediatricians can consider addressing with families, including:
- Parental mental health and coping as well as problematic child behavior when addressing spanking. Parents’ own adverse childhood experiences were associated with spanking and other harsh discipline.
- Use of positive discipline (see chart). Although five out of six parents did not spank their children in the past week, about half reported yelling at or threatening their children.
- The safety of everyone in the home when parents say they spank their children; 61% of those who reported experiencing IPV also reported that their children were spanked.
Source: Family Snapshots: Child Discipline During the COVID-19 Pandemic, https://bit.ly/3CkAMDR