Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 1, Issue 1, pp 27-36

First online:

Moderate spanking: Model or deterrent of children's aggression in the family?

  • Robert E. LarzelereAffiliated withRosemead School of Psychology, Biola University

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Previous research has rarely distinguished among the effects of minimal, moderate, and severe physical punishment on children's antisocial aggression. Using a nationally representative sample, this study compared the effects of different frequencies of physical punishment on children's reported physical aggression against other family members. In addition, the interaction of parental reasoning with physical punishment was examined. All analyses were repeated for preschoolers, preadolescents, and adolescents. The results generally indicated a linear positive association between physical punishment and child aggression. For preadolescent and adolescent aggression toward the parent, however, this association depended upon parental use of reasoning, such that spanking had a minimal effect on aggression for frequent reasoners. The combination of infrequent reasoning and frequent spanking was associated with dramatically increased aggression. The conclusion emphasizes additional unresolved issues about the effects of spanking, particularly the ambiguous direction of causal influence between parent and child.

Key words

aggression corporal punishment induction parent-child conflict