The use of physical punishment is controversial. No studies have comprehensively examined the relationship between physical punishment and several physical health conditions in a nationally representative sample. The current study investigated possible associations between harsh physical punishment (ie, pushing, grabbing, shoving, slapping, and hitting) in the absence of more severe child maltreatment (ie, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, and exposure to intimate partner violence) and several physical health conditions.
Data were from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions collected in 2004 and 2005 (n = 34 226 in the current analysis). The survey was conducted with a representative US adult population sample (20 years or older). Eight past year physical health condition categories were assessed. Models were adjusted for sociodemographic variables, family history of dysfunction, and Axis I and II mental disorders.
Harsh physical punishment was associated with higher odds of cardiovascular disease (borderline significance), arthritis, and obesity after adjusting for sociodemographic variables, family history of dysfunction, and Axis I and II mental disorders (adjusted odds ratios ranged from 1.20 to 1.30).
Harsh physical punishment in the absence of child maltreatment is associated with some physical health conditions in a general population sample. These findings inform the ongoing debate around the use of physical punishment and provide evidence that harsh physical punishment independent of child maltreatment is associated with a higher likelihood of physical health conditions.