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PMCID: PMC5119924 DOI: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000343


OBJECTIVE: Physical punishment of children is a prevalent practice that is condemned by most medical professionals given its link with increased risk of child physical abuse and other adverse child outcomes. This study examined the prevalence of parent-to-child hitting in medical settings and the intervention behaviors of staff who witness it.

METHOD: Staff at a children's medical center and a general medical center completed a voluntary, anonymous survey. We used descriptive statistics to examine differences in the experiences of physicians, nurses, and other medical staff. We used logistic regression to predict intervention behaviors among staff who witnessed parent-to-child hitting.

RESULTS: Of the hospital staff who completed the survey (N = 2863), we found that 50% of physicians, 24% of nurses, 27% of other direct care staff, and 17% of nondirect care staff witnessed parent-to-child hitting at their medical center in the past year. A majority of physicians, nurses, and other direct care staff reported intervening sometimes or always. Nondirect care staff rarely intervened. Believing staff have the responsibility to intervene, and having comfortable strategies with which to intervene were strongly predictive of intervention behavior. Staff who did not intervene commonly reported that they did not know how to respond.

CONCLUSION: Many medical center staff witness parent-to-child hitting. Although some of the staff reported that they intervened when they witnessed this behavior, the findings indicate that staff may need training to identify when and how they should respond.

Journal Title

Journal of developmental and behavioral pediatrics : JDBP





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MeSH Keywords

Adult; Attitude of Health Personnel; Child; Humans; Parent-Child Relations; Personnel, Hospital; Punishment