The mothers' education level broke down about evenly, with around 27 percent of the women having completed less than high school, another 27 percent having graduated high school and 27 percent having had some college. Almost 19 percent finished college. The average income was about $50,000, Taylor said.
The parents were married in 60 percent of the families, according to the study.
The researchers found that almost two-thirds of the 3-year-olds had been spanked at least once by one or both parents in the previous month.
In homes where both parents were aggressive or violent toward each other, the odds of a child getting spanked were doubled, the study reported.
"It's really not a surprise that if you're violent toward a partner or a partner is violent to you that you're more willing to spank your child. But what's really surprising is that something we know isn't effective with kids is still so accepted and used," said Lori Evans, a clinical assistant professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at The Child Study Center at the NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City.
"It all goes back to the old analogy that while you need a license to drive a car, nobody ever says you should take a basic parenting class before becoming a parent. It's all about prevention, and teaching parents how to cope with stress and teach alternative ways to discipline," Evans said.
Taylor added: "Parents that find themselves in relationships where there's aggressive or controlling behavior, even if it's minor, may want to seek counseling for themselves and for the good of their children. They may not realize how the stress they're experiencing can play out in how they're choosing to discipline their children."
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