The Longitudinal Association between Corporal Punishment and Aggression: the Explanatory Mechanism of Relational Victimization

  • Jianjun Zhu
  • Chengfu Yu
  • Zhenzhou Bao
  • Yuanyuan Chen
  • Jianjun Zhang
  • Yongqiang Jiang
  • Binyuan Su
  • Wei ZhangEmail author


The mechanism underlying the association between corporal punishment and adolescent aggression remains unclear. This research advances the comprehensive understanding of this developmental pattern, by being the first study to separately test the transactional associations among corporal punishment, relational victimization and aggression subtypes. The current study used a longitudinal design across three time points (the fall semester of 7th grade, the fall of 8th grade, and the fall of 9th grade). Only adolescents participating in all the three time points were included in this study, resulting in a final sample of 342 adolescents (175 boys, 167 girls) who completed questionnaires regarding corporal punishment, relational victimization, and aggression. Gender, age and socioeconomic status were controlled for in the analyses. Autoregressive cross-lagged models indicated that there was a direct longitudinal link from corporal punishment at 7th grade to being relationally victimized at 8th grade. Moreover, we found a significant link from relational victimization at 8th grade to both physical aggression and indirect aggression at 9th grade. Furthermore, relational victimization could explain the association between corporal punishment and both types of aggression. Knowledge about these developmental processes would inform prevention and intervention programs designed to disrupt the link between corporal punishment and aggression.


Corporal punishment Relational victimization Physical aggression Indirect aggression 



This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31671154), Innovation Project of Graduate School of South China Normal University (2017WKXM009), Innovation Project of School of Psychology of South China Normal University (hsxly2017001) and the Foundation for “13th Five-Year Plan” Research Project of Educational Science in Guangdong (Moral Education Project, 2018JKDY07). The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect the views of the granting agencies. We thank the adolescents who participated in our study and the schools that assisted our study in various ways.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianjun Zhu
    • 1
  • Chengfu Yu
    • 2
  • Zhenzhou Bao
    • 3
  • Yuanyuan Chen
    • 1
  • Jianjun Zhang
    • 1
  • Yongqiang Jiang
    • 4
  • Binyuan Su
    • 1
  • Wei Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Psychology & Center for Studies of Psychological ApplicationSouth China Normal UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.School of EducationGuangzhou UniversityGuangzhouChina
  3. 3.School of Education ScienceGanNan Normal UniversityGanzhouChina
  4. 4.School of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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