Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 199–221 | Cite as

Child Outcomes of Nonabusive and Customary Physical Punishment by Parents: An Updated Literature Review

  • Robert E. LarzelereEmail author


This article updates the only previous systematic literature review of child outcomes of nonabusive and customary physical punishment by parents. The outcomes differ by methodologic, child, and subcultural factors as well as by how the physical punishment was used. All six studies that used clinical samples (including four randomized clinical studies) and all three sequential-analysis studies found beneficial outcomes, such as reduced noncompliance and fighting, primarily when nonabusive spanking was used to back up milder disciplinary tactics in 2- to 6-year olds. Five of eight longitudinal studies that controlled for initial child misbehavior found predominantly detrimental outcomes of spanking. However, those detrimental outcomes were primarily due to overly frequent use of physical punishment. Furthermore, apparently detrimental outcomes have been found for every alternative disciplinary tactic when investigated with similar analyses. Such detrimental associations of frequent use of any disciplinary tactic may be due to residual confounding from initial child misbehavior. Specific findings suggest discriminations between effective and counterproductive physical punishment with young children. More research is needed to clarify the role of spanking and alternative disciplinary tactics in control system aspects of parental discipline.

physical punishment parental discipline 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, M. J. (1995). Youth in crisis: An examination of adverse risk factors affecting children's cognitive and behavioral/emotional development, children ages 10-16. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Texas at Dallas, Dallas.Google Scholar
  2. Alibrando, S. A., Jr. (1987). The effects of corporal punishment and contextual parental characteristics on rebelliousness, neuroticism and introversion. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Biola University, LaMirada, CA.Google Scholar
  3. Bauman, L. J., & Friedman, S. B. (1998). Corporal punishment. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 45, 403-414.Google Scholar
  4. Baumrind, D. (1973). The development of instrumental competence through socialization. In A. D. Pick (Ed.), Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology (Vol. 7, pp. 3-46). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  5. Baumrind, D. (1983). Specious causal attributions in the social sciences: The reformulated stepping-stone theory of heroin use as exemplar. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 1289-1298.Google Scholar
  6. Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11, 56-95.Google Scholar
  7. Baumrind, D. (1996). A blanket injunction against disciplinary use of spanking is not warranted by the data. Pediatrics, 98, 828-831.Google Scholar
  8. Baumrind, D., & Owens, E. B. (2000). Does normative physical punishment by parents cause detrimental child outcomes: A prospective longitudinal study. Manuscript in preparation.Google Scholar
  9. Bean, A. W., & Roberts, M. W. (1981). The effect of time-out release contingencies on changes in child noncompliance. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 9, 95-105.Google Scholar
  10. Bell, R. Q., & Harper, L. V. (1977). Child effects on adults. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  11. Bernal, M. E., Duryee, J. S., Pruett, H. L., & Burns, B. J. (1968). Behavior modification and the brat syndrome. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 32, 447-455.Google Scholar
  12. Brestan, E. V., & Eyberg, S. M. (1998). Effective psychosocial treatments of conduct-disordered children and adolescents: 29 years, 82 studies, and 5,272 kids. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27(2), 180-189.Google Scholar
  13. Bryan, J. W., & Freed, F. W. (1982). Corporal punishment: Normative data and sociological and psychological correlates in a community college population. Journal of Youth & Adolescence, 11, 77-87.Google Scholar
  14. Caesar, P. (1988). Exposure to violence in the families-of-origin among wife-abusers and maritally nonviolent men. Violence and Victims, 3, 49-63.Google Scholar
  15. Crowne, D. P., Conn, L. K., Marlowe, D., & Edwards, C. N. (1969). Some developmental antecedents of level of aspiration. Journal of Personality, 37, 73-92.Google Scholar
  16. Day, D. E., & Roberts, M. W. (1983). An analysis of the physical punishment component of a parent training program. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 11, 141-152.Google Scholar
  17. 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.Google Scholar
  18. 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.Google Scholar
  19. Ellison, C., Musick, M., & Holden, G. (1998). A longitudinal study of the effects of corporal punishment: The moderating effect of conservative Protestantism. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  20. Gershoff, E. T. (1999). The effects of parental corporal punishment on children: A process model and meta-analytic review. Unpublished manuscript.Google Scholar
  21. Goodenough, F. L. (1931). Anger in young children. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  22. Graziano, A. M., Hamblen, L., & Plante, W. A. (1996). Subabusive violence in child rearing in middle-class American families. Pediatrics, 98(4), 845-848.Google Scholar
  23. Grinder, R. E. (1962). Parental childrearing practices, conscience, and resistance to temptation of sixth grade children. Child Development, 33, 803-820.Google Scholar
  24. Grusec, J. E., & Goodnow, J. J. (1994). Impact of parental discipline methods on the child's internalization of values:Areconceptualization of current points of view. Developmental Psychology, 30, 4-19.Google Scholar
  25. Gunnoe, M. L., & Mariner, C. L. (1997). Toward a developmental-contextual model of the effects of parental spanking on children's aggression. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 151, 768-775.Google Scholar
  26. Hoffman, M. L. (1977). Moral internalization: Current theory and research. In L. Berkowitz (Ed.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 10, pp. 85-133). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  27. Holmes, S. J., & Robins, L. N. (1988). The role of parental disciplinary practices in the development of depression and alcoholism. Psychiatry, 51, 24-36.Google Scholar
  28. Hyman, I. A. (1997). The case against spanking. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  29. Johannesson, I. (1974). Aggressive behavior among school children related to maternal practices in early childhood. In J. deWit & W. W. Hartup (Eds.), Determinants and origins of aggressive behavior (pp. 413-426). The Hague: Mouton.Google Scholar
  30. Joubert, C. E. (1992). Antecedents of narcissism and psychological reactance as indicated by college students' retrospective reports of their parents' behaviors. Psychological Reports, 70, 1111-1115.Google Scholar
  31. Kadushin, A., & Martin, J. A. (1981). Child abuse: An interactional event. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kazdin, A. E. (1995). Conduct disorders in childhood and adolescence (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  33. Kuczynski, L., & Lollis, S. (in press). Four foundations for a dynamic model of parenting. In J. R. M. Gerris (Ed.), Dynamics of parenting. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  34. Larzelere, R. E. (1996). A review of the outcomes of parental use of nonabusive or customary physical punishment. Pediatrics, 98, 824-828.Google Scholar
  35. Larzelere, R. E. (in press). Combining love and limits in authoritative parenting: A conditional sequence model of disciplinary responses. In J. C. Westman (Ed.), Parenthood in America. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.Google Scholar
  36. Larzelere, R. E., Baumrind, D., & Polite, K. (1998a). Two emerging perspectives of parental spanking from two 1996 conferences. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 152, 303-305.Google Scholar
  37. Larzelere, R. E., & Johnson, B. (1999). Evaluation of the effects of Sweden's spanking ban on physical child abuse rates: A literature review. Psychological Reports, 85, 381-392.Google Scholar
  38. Larzelere, R. E., Klein, M., Schumm, W. R., & Alibrando, S. A., Jr. (1989). Relations of spanking and other parenting characteristics to self-esteem and perceived fairness of parental discipline. Psychological Reports, 64, 1140-1142.Google Scholar
  39. Larzelere, R. E., & Merenda, J. A. (1994). The effectiveness of parental discipline for toddler misbehavior at different levels of child distress. Family Relations, 43, 480-488.Google Scholar
  40. Larzelere, R. E., Sather, P. R., Schneider, W. N., Larson, D. B., & Pike, P. L. (1998b). Punishment enhances reasoning's effectiveness as a disciplinary response to toddlers. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 388-403.Google Scholar
  41. Larzelere, R. E., Schneider, W. N., Larson, D. B., & Pike, P. L. (1996). The effects of discipline responses in delaying toddler misbehavior recurrences. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 18, 35-57.Google Scholar
  42. Larzelere, R. E., & Smith, G. L. (2000, August). Controlled longitudinal effects of five disciplinary tactics on antisocial behavior. Paper presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  43. Lonigan, C. J., Elbert, J. C., & Johnson, S. B. (1998). Empirically supported psychosocial interventions for children: An overview. Journal of Clinical Child Psychology, 27, 138-145.Google Scholar
  44. Lyons, J. S., Anderson, R. L., & Larson, D. B. (1993). The use and effects of physical punishment in the home: A systematic review. Paper presented at the meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  45. MacIntyre, D. I., & Cantrell, P. J. (1995). Punishment history and adult attitudes towards violence and aggression in men and women. Social Behaviour and Personality, 23, 23-28.Google Scholar
  46. McClelland, D. C., & Pilon, D. A. (1983). Sources of adult motives in patterns of parent behavior in early childhood. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 44, 564-574.Google Scholar
  47. McCord, J. (1988). Parental aggressiveness and physical punishment in long term perspective. In G. Hotaling, D. Finkelhor, J. Kilpatrick, & M. Straus (Eds.), Family abuse and its consequences. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. McCord, J., & Ensminger, M. E. (1997). Multiple risks and comorbidity in an African-American population. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 7, 339-352.Google Scholar
  49. McLeod, J. D., Kruttschnitt, C., & Dornfeld, M. (1994). Does parenting explain the effects of structural conditions on children's antisocial behavior? A comparison of blacks and whites. Social Forces, 73, 575-604.Google Scholar
  50. Michels, S., Pianta, R., & Reeve, R. (1993). Parent self-reports of discipline practices and child acting-out behaviors in kindergarten. Early Education and Development, 4, 139-144.Google Scholar
  51. Miller, N., & Pollock, V. E. (1994). Meta-analytic synthesis for theory development. In H. Cooper & L. V. Hedges (Eds.), The handbook of research synthesis (pp. 457-484). New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  52. Mosby, L., Rawls, A. W., Meehan, A. J., Mays, E., & Pettinari, C. J. (1999). Troubles in interracial talk about discipline: An examination of African American child rearing narratives. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 30, 489-521.Google Scholar
  53. Newsom, C., Favell, J. E., & Rincover, A. (1983). Side effects of punishment. In S. Axelrod & J. Apsche (Eds.), The effects of punishment on human behavior (pp. 285-316). New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
  54. Palmerus, K., & Scarr, S. (1995). How parents discipline young children. Cultural comparisons and individual differences. Paper presented at the conference of the Society for Research on Child Development, Indianapolis, IN.Google Scholar
  55. Paschall, M. J., & Straus, M. A. (1998). Corporal punishment by mothers and child's cognitive development:Asecond longitudinal study. Unpublished abstract.Google Scholar
  56. Patterson, G. R. (1982). Coercive family process. Eugene, OR: Castalia Press.Google Scholar
  57. Patterson, G. R., Reid, J. B., & Dishion, T. J. (1992). Antisocial boys. Eugene, OR: Castalia.Google Scholar
  58. Polaha, J. A. (1998). The relationship between physical discipline and child behavior problems: A study of group differences. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, Auburn University, Auburn, AL.Google Scholar
  59. Rhue, J. W., & Lynn, S. J. (1987). Fantasy proneness: Developmental antecedents. Journal of Personality, 55, 121-137.Google Scholar
  60. Ritchie, K. L. (1999). Maternal behaviors and cognitions during discipline episodes: A comparison of power bouts and single acts of noncompliance. Developmental Psychology, 35, 580-589.Google Scholar
  61. Roberts, M. W. (1982). The effects of warned versus unwarned time-out procedures on child noncompliance. Child & Family Behavior Therapy, 4, 37-53.Google Scholar
  62. Roberts, M. W. (1988). Enforcing chair timeouts with room timeouts. Behavioral Modification, 12, 353-370.Google Scholar
  63. Roberts, M. W., & Powers, S. W. (1990). Adjusting chair timeout enforcement procedures for oppositional children. Behavior Therapy, 21, 257-271.Google Scholar
  64. Rothman, K. S. (1986). Modern epidemiology. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Co.Google Scholar
  65. Schenck, E. R., Lyman, R. D., & Bodin, S. D. (2000). Ethical beliefs, attitudes, and professional practices of psychologists regarding parental use of corporal punishment: A survey. Children's Services: Social Policy, Research, and Practice, 3(1), 23-38.Google Scholar
  66. Sears, R. R. (1961). Relation of early socialization experiences to aggression in middle childhood. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 63, 466-492.Google Scholar
  67. Sears, R. R. (1970). Relation of early socialization experiences to self-concepts and gender role in middle childhood. Child Development, 41, 267-289.Google Scholar
  68. Simons, R. L., Lin, K.-H., & Gordon, L. C. (1998). Socialization in the family of origin and male dating violence: A prospective study. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 60, 467-478.Google Scholar
  69. Smith, J. R., & Brooks-Gunn, J. (1997). Correlates and consequences of harsh discipline for young children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 151, 777-786.Google Scholar
  70. Snyder, J., Edwards, P., McGraw, K., Kilgore, K., & Holton, A. (1994). Escalation and reinforcement in mother-child conflict: Social processes associated with the development of physical aggression. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 305-321.Google Scholar
  71. Statistics Sweden. (1996). Spanking and other forms of physical punishment (Demography, the Family, and Children 1996:1.2). Stockholm: Statistics Sweden.Google Scholar
  72. Stattin, H., Janson, H., Klackenberg-Larsson, I., & Magnusson, D. (1995). Corporal punishment in everyday life: An intergenerational perspective. In J. McCord (Ed.), Coercion and punishment in long-term perspectives (pp. 315-347). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  73. Strassberg, Z., Dodge, K. A., Pettit, G. W., & Bates, J. E. (1994). Spanking in the home and children's subsequent aggression toward kindergarten peers. Development and Psychopathology, 6, 445-461.Google Scholar
  74. Straus, M. A., & Mouradian, V. E. (1998). Impulsive corporal punishment by mothers and antisocial behavior and impulsiveness of children. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 16, 353-374.Google Scholar
  75. Straus, M. A., & Paschall, M. J. (1998, August 1). Corporal punishment by mothers and child's cognitive development: A longitudinal study. Paper presented at the 14th World Congress of Sociology, Montreal, Canada.Google Scholar
  76. 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(2), 55-70.Google Scholar
  77. Straus, M. A., Sugarman, D. B., & Giles-Sims, J. (1997). Spanking by parents and subsequent antisocial behavior of children. Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, 151, 761-767.Google Scholar
  78. Tennant, F. S., Jr., Detels, R., & Clark, V. (1975). Some childhood antecedents of drug and alcohol abuse. American Journal of Epidemiology, 102, 377-385.Google Scholar
  79. Valsiner, J. (1987). Culture and the development of children's actions: A cultural-historical theory of developmental psychology. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  80. Walters, G. C., & Grusec, J. E. (1977). Punishment. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman.Google Scholar
  81. Weiss, B., Dodge, K. A., & Bates, J. E. (1992). Some consequences of early harsh discipline: Child aggression and a maladaptive social information processing style. Child Development, 63, 1321-1335.Google Scholar
  82. Whaley, A. L. (2000). Sociocultural differences in the developmental consequences of the use of physical discipline during childhood for African Americans. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 6(1), 5-12.Google Scholar
  83. Wittrock, U. (1992). Barnmisshandel i kriminalstatistiken, 1981-1991 [Violent crimes against children in criminal statistics, 1981-1991]. KR Info, 1992: 7.Google Scholar
  84. Wittrock, U. (1995). Barnmisshandel, 1984-1994 [Violent crimes against children, 1984-1994]. KR Info, 1995: 5.Google Scholar
  85. Yarrow, M. R., Campbell, J. D., & Burton, R. V. (1968). Child rearing: An inquiry into research and methods. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Psychology Department, Munroe–Meyer InstituteUniversity of Nebraska Medical CenterUSA
  2. 2.Girls and Boys TownUSA

Personalised recommendations