Skip to main content

Harsh Discipline and Child Problem Behaviors: The Roles of Positive Parenting and Gender

Abstract

This study examined harsh verbal and physical discipline and child problem behaviors in a community sample of 2,582 parents and their fifth and sixth grade children. Participants were recruited from pediatric practices, and both parents and children completed questionnaire packets. The findings indicated that boys received more harsh verbal and physical discipline than girls, with fathers utilizing more harsh physical discipline with boys than did mothers. Both types of harsh discipline were associated with child behavior problems uniquely after positive parenting was taken into account. Child gender did not moderate the findings, but one dimension of positive parenting (i.e., parental warmth) served to buffer children from the detrimental influences of harsh physical discipline. The implications of the findings for intervention programs are discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  1. Achenbach, T. M. (1991). Manual for the Child Behavior checklist 4–18 and 1991 profile. Burlington: University of Vermont Department of Psychiatry.

  2. Aiken, L. S., & West, S. G. (1991). Multiple regression: Testing and interpreting interactions. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

  3. Barnes, G. M., & Farrell, M. P. (1992). Parental support and control as predictors of adolescent drinking, delinquency, and related problem behaviors. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 54, 763–776.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Chang, L., Dodge, K. A., Schwartz, D., & McBride-Chang, C. (2003). Harsh parenting in relation to child emotion regulation and aggression. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 598–606.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Crick, N. R., & Zahn-Waxler, C. (2003). The development of psychopathology in females and males: Current progress and future challenges. Development and Psychopathology, 15, 719–742.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Criss, M. M., Pettit, G. S., Bates, J. E., Dodge, K. A., & Lapp, A. L. (2002). Family adversity, positive peer relationships, and children’s externalizing behavior: A longitudinal perspective on risk and resilience. Child Development, 73, 1220–1237.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  7. Deater-Deckard, K., & Dodge, K. A. (1997). Externalizing behavior problems and discipline revisited: Nonlinear effects and variation by culture, context, and gender. Psychological Inquiry, 8, 161–175.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Deater-Deckard, K., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Pettit, G. S. (1996). Physical discipline among African American and European American mothers: Links to children’s externalizing behaviors. Developmental Psychology, 32, 1065–1072.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Petit, G. S. (1990). Mechanisms in the cycle of violence. Science, 250, 1678–1683.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  10. Gardner, W., Murphy, M., Childs, G., Kelleher, K., Pagano, M., Jellinek, M., et al. (1999). The PSC—17: A brief pediatric symptom checklist with psychosocial problem subscales. A report from PROS and ASPN. Ambulatory Child Health, 5, 225–236.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Jellinek, M. S., Evans, N., & Knight, R. B. (1979). Use of a behavior checklist on a pediatric in-patient unit. Journal of Pediatrics, 94, 156–158.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  12. Jellinek, M.S., Murphy, J.M., & Burns, B. (1986). Brief psychosocial screening in outpatient pediatric practice. Journal of Pediatrics, 109, 371–378.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Kim, I. J., Ge, X., Brody, G. H., Conger, R. D., Gibbons, F. X., Simons, R. L. (2003). Parenting behaviors and the occurrence and co-occurrence of depressive symptoms and conduct problems among African American children. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 571–583.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Kotchick, B. A., & Forehand, R. (2002). Putting parenting in perspective: A discussion of the contextual factors that shape parenting practices. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 11, 255–269.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Mahoney, A., Donnelly, W. O., Lewis, T., & Maynard, C. (2000). Mother and father self-reports of corporal punishment and severe physical aggression toward clinic-referred youth. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 29, 266–281.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Masten, A. S., & Coatsworth, J. D. (1998). The development of competence in favorable and unfavorable environments: Lessons from research on successful children. American Psychologist, 53, 205–220.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  17. McGee, R. A., Wolfe, D. A., & Wilson, K. A. (1997). Multiple maltreatment experiences and adolescent behavior problems: Adolescents’ perspectives. Development and Psychopathology, 9, 131–149.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  18. McMahon, R. J., & Forehand, R. L. (2003). Helping the noncompliant child. (2nd edn.). New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Murphy, J. M. (1996). Incidence of mental disorder. British Journal of Psychiatry, 169, 667–668.

    Google Scholar 

  20. Murphy, J. M., Arnett, H. L., Bishop, S. J., Jellinek, M. S., & Reade, J. Y. (1992a). Screening for psychosocial dysfunction in pediatric practice: A naturalistic study of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist. Clinical Pediatrics, 31, 660–667.

    Google Scholar 

  21. Murphy, J. M., Reade, J., Jellinek, M. S., & Bishop, S. J. (1992b). Screening for psychosocial dysfunction in inner-city children: Further validation of the Pediatric Symptom Checklist. Journal of American Academy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry, 31, 1105–1111.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Patterson, G. R., DeBaryshe, B. D., & Ramsey, E. (1989). A developmental perspective on antisocial behavior. American Psychologist, 44, 329–335.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Phares, V. (1996). Fathers and developmental psychopathology. New York: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  24. Sedlak, A. J., Broadhurst, D., & Thomas, C. (1997). Third National Incidence Study of child abuse and neglect (Data Collection Report No. NIS-3). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

  25. Simons, R. L., Johnson, C., & Conger, R. D. (1994). Harsh corporal punishment versus quality of parental involvement as an explanation of adolescent maladjustment. Journal of Marriage and Family, 56, 591–607.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Stevens, M. M., Olson, A. L., Gaffney, C. A., Tosteson, T. D., Mott, L. A., & Starr, P. (2002). A pediatric, practice-based, randomized trial of drinking and smoking prevention and bicycle helmet, gun, and seatbelt safety promotion. Pediatrics, 109, 490–497.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Strassberg, Z., Dodge, K. A., Petit, G. S., Bates, J. E. (1994). Spanking in the home and children’s subsequent aggression toward kindergarten peers. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 445–461.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Straus, M. A., & Field, C. J. (2003). Psychological aggression by American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, and severity. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 795–808.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Straus, M. A., & Stewart, J. H. (1999). Corporal punishment by American parents: National data on prevalence, chronicity, severity, and duration, in relation to child and family characteristics. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2, 55–70.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Weis, B., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., & Petit, G. S. (1992). Some consequences of early harsh discipline: Child aggression and a maladaptive social information processing style. Child Development, 63, 1321–1335.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rex Forehand.

Additional information

This research was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McKee, L., Roland, E., Coffelt, N. et al. Harsh Discipline and Child Problem Behaviors: The Roles of Positive Parenting and Gender. J Fam Viol 22, 187–196 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10896-007-9070-6

Download citation

Keywords

  • Physical and verbal discipline
  • Child problem behaviors
  • Positive parenting