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Revista Panamericana de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1020-4989

Abstract

SPEIZER, Ilene S. et al. Dimensions of child punishment in two Central American countries: Guatemala and El Salvador. Rev Panam Salud Publica [online]. 2008, vol.23, n.4, pp. 247-256. ISSN 1020-4989.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1020-49892008000400004.

OBJECTIVE: Severe physical punishment of children is an important issue in international child health and welfare. This study examines such punishment in Guatemala and El Salvador. METHODS: Data came from nationally representative surveys of women aged 15-49 and men aged 15-59 residing in Guatemala (2002) and El Salvador (2002-2003). The surveys included questions about punishment experienced during childhood, with response options ranging from verbal scolding to beating. In Guatemala, parents were asked how they disciplined their children; questions allowed them to compare how they were punished in their childhood with how they punished their own children. Bivariate and multivariate analyses are presented. RESULTS: In Guatemala, 35% of women and 46% of men reported being beaten as punishment in childhood; in El Salvador, the figures were 42% and 62%, respectively. In both countries, older participants were relatively more likely than younger participants to have been beaten as children. Witnessing familial violence was associated with an increased risk of being beaten in childhood. In Guatemala, having experienced physical punishment as a child increased the chance that parents would use physical punishment on their own children. Multivariate analyses revealed that women who were beaten in childhood were significantly more likely in both countries to be in a violent relationship. CONCLUSIONS: The use of beating to physically punish children is a common problem in Guatemala and El Salvador, with generational and intergenerational effects. Its negative and lingering effects necessitate the introduction of policies and programs to decrease this behavior.

Keywords : Child abuse; parenting; domestic violence; Guatemala; El Salvador.

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