Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 1095–1110 | Cite as

The Effect of Corporal Punishment and Verbal Abuse on Delinquency: Mediating Mechanisms

  • Sara Z. EvansEmail author
  • Leslie Gordon Simons
  • Ronald L. Simons
Empirical Research


While the link between parenting and delinquency is well established, there is less consensus among scholars with regards to the processes that account for this link. The current study had two objectives. The first was to disentangle the effects of African American parents’ use of corporal punishment and verbal abuse on the conduct problems of their preteen children. The second was to investigate the mechanisms that explain this relationship, such as having low self-control or a hostile view of relationships, whereby these harsh parenting practices increase a youth’s involvement in problem behavior. Further, we are interested in specifically addressing how these mechanisms may operate differently for males versus females. Analyses utilized structural equation modeling and longitudinal data spanning approximately 2.5 years from a sample of 704 (54.2 % female) African American children ages 10–12. The results indicated that verbal abuse was a more important predictor of conduct problems than corporal punishment. Additionally, we found that the mechanisms that mediated the impact of verbal abuse and corporal punishment on conduct problems varied by gender. For males, most of the effect of verbal abuse was mediated by low self-control, whereas anger/frustration was the primary mediator for females. Implications of these results and directions for future study are also discussed.


Verbal abuse Corporal punishment Externalizing behavior 



This research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health (MH48165, MH62669) and the Center for Disease Control (029136-02). Additional funding for this project was provided by the National Institute on Drug Abuse and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sara Z. Evans
    • 1
    Email author
  • Leslie Gordon Simons
    • 2
  • Ronald L. Simons
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Justice StudiesUniversity of West FloridaPensacolaUSA
  2. 2.Department of Child and Family DevelopmentUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA

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