Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 129–142 | Cite as

Experience of Parental Corporal Punishment in Childhood and Adolescence and its Effect on Punitiveness

  • Stefanie Kemme
  • Michael Hanslmaier
  • Christian Pfeiffer


The family, as the primary instance of socialization, plays a key role in nurturing values and attitudes. Based on this notion, this paper looks at how parental corporal punishment in childhood and adolescence, as an expression of a strict, authoritarian upbringing, can influence punitiveness later in life. The results of a representative German sample using multivariate analyses show that individuals who were physically punished or abused by their parents during childhood or adolescence are more punitive than non-victims of parental violence. Based on these findings, the question of whether changing parenting styles might have implications at the macro-level of punitiveness is addressed.


Parental violence Corporal punishment Upbringing Punitiveness 


  1. Allen, D. M., & Tarnowski, K. J. (1989). Depressive characteristics of physically abused children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 17, 1–11.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Baier, D. (2008). Entwicklung der Jugenddelinquenz und ausgewählter Bedingungsfaktoren seit 1998 in den Städten Hannover, München, Stuttgart und Schwäbisch Gmünd [Trends in juvenile delinquency and selected determinants since 1998 in the cities of Hanover, Munich, Stuttgart and Schwäbisch Gmünd] (Research Report 104). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  3. Baier, D., Pfeiffer, C., Simonson, J., & Rabold, S. (2009). Jugendliche in Deutschland als Opfer und Täter von Gewalt [Youth in Germany as victims and perpetrators of crime] (Research Report 107). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  4. Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  5. Bilsky, W., Pfeiffer, C., & Wetzels, P. (1992). Persönliches Sicherheitsgefühl, Angst vor Kriminalität und Gewalt, Opfererfahrungen älterer Menschen [Personal feelings of security, fear of crime and violence, victimization experiences of elderly people] (Research Report 5). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  6. Bower-Russa, M. E., Knutson, J. F., & Winebarger, A. (2001). Disciplinary history, adult disciplinary attitudes, & risk for abusive parenting. Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 219–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bussman, K.-D., Erthal, C., & Schroth, A. (2008). Wirkung von Körperstrafenverboten. Erste Ergebnisse der europäischen Vergleichsstudie zu den “Auswirkungen eines gesetzlichen Verbots von Gewalt in der Erziehung“. [Impact of prohibition of corporal punishment by law. First results of an European comparative study on the “effects of prohibition of violence in education by law”]. Recht der Jugend und des Bildungswesens, 4(2008), 404–422.Google Scholar
  8. Carroll, J. S., Perkowitz, W. T., Lurigio, A. J., & Weaver, F. M. (1987). Sentencing goals, causal attributions, ideology, and personality. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 107–118.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chung, E. K., Mathew, L., Rothkopf, A. C., Elo, I. T., Coyne, J. C., & Culhane, J. F. (2009). Parenting attitudes and infant spanking: the influence of childhood experience. Pediatrics, 124, 278–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cochran, J. K., & Chamlin, M. B. (2000). Deterrence and brutalization: the dual effects of executions. Justice Quarterly, 17, 685–706.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Cullen, F. T., Clark, G. A., Cullen, J. B., & Mathers, R. A. (1985). Attribution, salience, and attidudes toward criminal sanctioning. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 12, 305–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Deather-Deckard, K., Lansford, J. E., Pettit, G. S., & Bates, J. E. (2003). The development of attitudes about physical punishment. Journal of Family Psychology, 17, 351–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Durkheim, E. (1966). Über die Anomie [On anomy]. In C. W. Mills (Ed.), Klassiker der Soziologie (pp. 394–436). Frankfurt am Main, Germany: S. Fischer.Google Scholar
  14. Feather, N. T. (1996). Reactions to penalties for an offense in relation to authoritarianism, values, perceived responsibility, perceived seriousness and deservingness. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 71, 571–587.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fishbein, M., & Ajzen, I. (1975). Belief, attitude, intention and behavior: an introduction to theory and research. Reading: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  16. Gabriel, U., Greve, W. (1996). “Strafe muß sein!”!“Sanktionsbedürfnisse und strafbezogene Einstellungen: Versuch einer systematischen Annäherung [“Punishment is necessary!“The longing for sanctions and punitive preferences: a systematic approach]. In C. Pfeiffer and W. (Eds.), Forschungsthema Kriminalität (pp. 185–214). Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  17. Gershoff, E. T. (2002a). Corporal punishment by parents and associated child behaviors and experiences: a meta-analytic and theoretical review. Psychological Bulletin, 128, 539–579.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gershoff, E. T. (2002b). Corporal punishment, physical abuse, and the burden of proof: reply to Baumrind, Larzelere, and Cohen (2002), Holden (2002), and Parke (2002). Psychological Bulletin, 128, 602–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Goldberg, J. H., Lerner, J. S., & Tetlock, P. E. (1999). Rage and reason: the psychology of the intuitive prosecutor. European Journal of Social Psychology, 29, 781–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Graziano, A. M., & Namaste, K. A. (1990). Parental use of physical force in child discipline: a survey of 679 college students. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5, 449–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graziano, A. M., Lindquist, C. M., Kunce, L. J., & Munjal, K. (1992). Physical punishment in childhood and current attitudes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 7, 147–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gross, A. B., & Keller, H. R. (1992). Long-term consequences of childhood physical and psychological maltreatment. Aggressive Behavior, 18, 171–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hanslmaier, M., & Kemme, S. (2011). Kriminalität in der öffentlichen Wahrnehmung: Welchen Einfluss hat die Mediennutzung? [Crime in public perception: What about the media?]. Zeitschrift für Rechtssoziologie, 32, 129–152.Google Scholar
  24. Hartnagel, T. F., & Templeton, L. (2008). Perceptions, emotions and experiences of crime: Effects on attitudes toward punishment in a canadian sample. In H. Kury (Ed.), Fear of crime—punitivity: new developments in theory and research (pp. 349–370). Bochum: Universitätsverlag Dr. N. Brockmeyer.Google Scholar
  25. Hyman, I. A. (1995). Corporal punishment, psychological maltreatment, violence, and punitiveness in America: research, advocacy, and public policy. Applied & Preventive Psychology, 4, 113–130.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Kemme, S. (2008). Jugenddelinquenz in westlicher und islamischer Welt. Interkulturell-vergleichende Dunkelfeldforschung bei Studierenden in Gießen, Madison und Izmir. [Juvenile delinquency in the western and the islamic world. Intercultural – comparative darkfigure research with students in Gießen, Madison and Izmir]. Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  27. Kreuzer, A., Görgen, T., Krüger, R., Münch, V., & Schneider, H. (1993). Jugenddelinquenz in Ost und West [Juvenile delinquency in east and west]. Bonn: Forum Verlag Godesberg.Google Scholar
  28. Kühnrich, B., & Kania, H. (2005). Attitudes towards punishment in the European Union. Results from the 2005 European Crime Survey (ECSS) with focus on Germany. Freiburg/Breisgau: Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Criminal Law.Google Scholar
  29. Kury, H., & Obergfell-Fuchs, J. (2008). Methodische Probleme bei der Erfassung von Sanktionseinstellungen (Punitivität) - Ein quantitativer und qualitativer Ansatz [Methodological problems of capturing penal attitudes (punitivity)—A quantitative and qualitative approach]. In A. Groenemeyer & S. Wieseler (Eds.), Soziologie sozialer Probleme und sozialer Kontrolle: Realitäten, Repräsentationen und Politik (pp. 231–255). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kury, H., Dörmann, U., Richter, H., & Würger, M. (1992). Opfererfahrungen und Meinungen zur Inneren Sicherheit in Deutschland [Victimization experiences and opinions about the internal security in Germany]. Wiesbaden: Bundeskriminalamt.Google Scholar
  31. Kury, H., Kania, H., & Obergfell-Fuchs, J. (2004). Worüber sprechen wir, wenn wir über Punitivität sprechen? Versuch einer konzeptionellen und empirischen Begriffsbestimmung [What are we talking about, when we speak about punitivity? Attempt of a conceptional and empirical determination of the term]. Kriminologisches Journal, 36, 51–88.Google Scholar
  32. Langworthy, R. H., & Whitehead, J. T. (1986). Liberalism and fear as explanations of punitiveness. Criminology, 24, 575–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lautmann, R., & Klimke, D. (2004). Punitivität als Schlüsselbegriff für eine kritische Kriminologie [Punitivity as keyterm for a critical criminology]. In R. Lautmann, D. Klimke, & F. Sack (Eds.), Punitivität. Kriminologisches Journal 8. Beiheft (pp. 9–29). Weinheim: Juventa.Google Scholar
  34. Lerner, J. S., Goldberg, J. H., & Tetlock, P. E. (1998). Sober second thought: the effects of accountability, anger, and authoritarianism on attributions of responsibility. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24, 563–574.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Long, J. S., & Freese, J. (2003). Regression models for categorical dependent variables using Stata. College Station, Texas: Stata Corporation.Google Scholar
  36. MacIntyre, D. I., & Cantrell, P. J. (1995). Punishment history and adult attitudes towards violence and aggression in men and women. Social Behavior and Personality, 23, 23–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Muller, R. T., Hunter, J. E., & Stollak, G. (1995). The inter-generational transmission of corporal punishment: a comparison of social learning and temperament models. Child Abuse & Neglect, 19, 1323–1335.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Peterson, B. E., Doty, R. M., & Winter, D. G. (1993). Authoritarianism and attitudes toward contemporary social issues. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 19, 174–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pfeiffer, C., Wetzels, P., & Enzmann, D. (1999). Innerfamiliäre Gewalt gegen Kinder und Jugendliche und ihre Auswirkungen [Intra-familial violence towards children and adolescents and their effects] (Research Report 80). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  40. Pfeiffer, C., Windzio, M., & Kleimann, M. (2005). Media use and its impacts on crime perception, sentencing attitudes and crime policy. European Journal of Criminology, 2, 259–285.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pinderhughes, E. E., Dodge, K. A., Bates, J. E., Pettit, G. S., & Zelli, A. (2000). Discipline responses: influence of parents’ socioeconomic status, ethnicity, beliefs about parenting, stress, and cognitive-emotional processes. Journal of Family Psychology, 14, 380–400.PubMedCentralPubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Pinquart, M., & Silbereisen, R. K. (2004). Transmission of values from adolscents to their parents: the role of value content and authoritative parenting. Adolescence, 39, 83–100.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Rich, R. F., & Sampson, R. J. (1990). Public perceptions of criminal justice Policy: does victimization make a difference? Violence and Victims, 5, 109–118.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  44. Savelsberg, J. J. (2000). Kulturen staatlichen Strafens: USA und Deutschland [Cultures governmental punishment]. In J. Gerhards (Ed.), Die Vermessung kultureller Unterschiede. Deutschland und USA im Vergleich (pp. 189–209). Wiesbaden: Westdeutscher Verlag.Google Scholar
  45. Schönpflug, U. (2001). Inter-generational transmission of values. The role of transmission belts. Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32, 174–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sedlak, A. J., Mettenburg, J., Basena, M., Petta, I., McPherson, K., Greene, A., & Li, S. (2010). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4): Report to Congress. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families.Google Scholar
  47. Simons, R. L., Wu, C.-I., Johnson, C., & Conger, R. D. (1995). A test of various perspectives on the inter-generational transmission of domestic violence. Criminology, 33, 141–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Skitka, L. J., & Tetlock, P. E. (1993). Providing public assistance: cognitive and motivational processes underlying liberal and conservative policy preferences. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 1205–1223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Skogan, W. G. (1993). The various meanings of fear. In W. Bilsky, C. Pfeiffer, & P. Wetzels (Eds.), Fear of crime and criminal victimization (pp. 131–140). Stuttgart: Enke.Google Scholar
  50. Smith, C., & Thornberry, T. P. (1995). The relationship between childhood maltreatment and adolescent involvement in delinquency. Criminology, 33, 451–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Socolar, R. R. S., Savage, R., & Evans, H. (2007). A longitudinal study of parental discipline of children. Southern Medical Journal, 100, 472–477.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stevens, D. J. (1992). Research note: the death sentence and inmate attitudes. Crime & Delinquency, 38, 272–279.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Straus, M. A. (1990). Measuring intrafamily conflict and violence: the conflict tactics (CT) ccales. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical Violence in American Families (pp. 29–47). New Brunswick: Transaction.Google Scholar
  54. Straus, M. A., & Smith, C. (1990). Family patterns and child abuse. In M. A. Straus & R. J. Gelles (Eds.), Physical violence in American families (pp. 245–262). New Brunswick: Transaction Books.Google Scholar
  55. Straus, M. A., Gelles, R. J., & Steinmetz, S. K. (2006). Behind closed doors: violence in American families. New York: Doubleday/Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  56. Suhling, S., Löbmann, R., & Greve, W. (2005). Zur Messung von Strafeinstellungen. Argumente für den Einsatz von fiktiven Fallgeschichten [On the measurement of penal attitudes. Arguments for the utilization of ficticious case scenarios]. Zeitschrift für Sozialpsychologie, 36, 203–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. The Center for Effective Discipline (2009). Discipline at School. Retrieved from
  58. Tyler, T. R., & Boeckman, R. J. (1997). Three strikes and you are out, but why? The psychology of public support for punishing rule breakers. Law and Society Review, 31, 237–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Van Kesteren, J. (2009). Public attitudes and sentencing policies across the world. European Journal on Crime Policy and Research, 15, 25–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Vittrup, B., Holden, G. W., & Buck, J. (2006). Attitudes predict the use of physical punishment: a prospective study of the emergence of disciplinary practices. Pediatrics, 117, 2055–2064.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Wetzels, P. (1997). Gewalterfahrungen in der Kindheit [Violence experiences during childhood]. Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  62. Wetzels, P., Mecklenburg, E., Bilsky, W., & Pfeiffer, C. (1994a). Persönliches Sicherheitsgefühl, Angst vor Kriminalität und Gewalt, Opfererfahrung älterer Menschen. Deskriptive Analysen krimineller Opfererfahrungen (Teil III): Opfererfahrungen in engen sozialen Beziehungen [Personal feelings of security, fear of crime and violence, victim experiences of elderly people. Descriptive analyses of crime victim experiences (Part III): Victimization experiences in close social relationships] (Research Report 21). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  63. Wetzels, P., Mecklenburg, E., Bilsky, W., & Pfeiffer, C. (1994b). Persönliches Sicherheitsgefühl, Angst vor Kriminalität und Gewalt, Opfererfahrung älterer Menschen . Deskriptive Analysen krimineller Opfererfahrungen (Teil II): Subjektiv schwerste Opfererfahrung und Prävalenz stellvertretender Opferwerdung [Personal feelings of security, fear of crime and violence, victim experiences of elderly people. Descriptive analyses of crime victim experiences (Part II): Subjectively most serious victim experience and prevalence of vicarious victimization] (Research Report 16). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  64. Wilmers, N., Enzmann, D., Schaefer, D., Herbers, K., Greve, W., & Wetzels, P. (2002). Jugendliche in Deutschland zur Jahrtausendwende: Gefährlich oder gefährdet? [Adolescents in Germany at turn of the millenium: dangerous or endangered?]. Baden-Baden: Nomos.Google Scholar
  65. Windzio, M., Simonson, J., Pfeiffer, C., & Kleimann, M. (2007). Kriminalitätswahrnehmung und Punitivität in der Bevölkerung - Welche Rolle spielen die Massenmedien? Ergebnisse der Befragungen zu Kriminalitätswahrnehmung und Strafeinstellungen 2004 und 2006 [Perception of crime and punitivity in population – Which role play the mass-media? Results of the surveys on perceptions of crime and punishment 2004 and 2006] (Research Report 103). Hanover: Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony.Google Scholar
  66. Zolotor, A. J., Theodore, A. D., Runyan, D. K., Chang, J. J., & Laskey, A. L. (2011). Corporal punishment and physical abuse: population-based trends for three-to-11-year-old children in the United States. Child Abuse & Neglect, 20, 57–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stefanie Kemme
    • 1
    • 2
  • Michael Hanslmaier
    • 1
  • Christian Pfeiffer
    • 1
  1. 1.Criminological Research Institute of Lower SaxonyHanoverGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Law, Institute of Criminal SciencesUniversity of HamburgHamburgGermany

Personalised recommendations