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Historical overview of child discipline in the United States: Implications for mental health clinicians and researchers

Abstract

Discipline of children is a major topic of concern in our society. This paper places discipline in a historical perspective by briefly tracing disciplinary practices from the 1600s to the present day in the United States. Four primary trends are then delineated. These include the following: movement from strict discipline to lax discipline to mixed messages concerning discipline; determinants of discipline changing from Puritan religious beliefs to “experts” in fields such as psychology; the increasing role of legislative efforts focusing on children's rights; and the changing role of fathers in childrearing in general and discipline in particular. Viewed against such a historical account, implications for mental health professionals in shaping disciplinary practices are offered. These include generating data to provide needed answers and assuming an active role in setting policy.

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Correspondence to Rex Forehand Ph.D..

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Forehand, R., McKinney, B. Historical overview of child discipline in the United States: Implications for mental health clinicians and researchers. J Child Fam Stud 2, 221–228 (1993). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01321332

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Key words

  • discipline
  • legislation
  • historical perspective
  • fathers
  • Puritan religious beliefs