Development and Psychopathology


Spanking in the home and children's subsequent aggression toward kindergarten peers

Zvi Strassberga1 c1, Kenneth A. Dodgea1, Gregory S. Pettita2 and John E. Batesa3

a1 Vanderbilt University

a2 Auburn University

a3 Indiana University


Although spanking of children is almost universal in U.S. society, its effects are not well understood. We examined the longitudinal relation between parental spanking and other physical punishment of preschool children and children's aggressive behavior toward peers later in kindergarten. A total of 273 boys and girls from diverse backgrounds served as subjects. The findings were consistent with a socialization model in which higher levels of severity in parental punishment practices are associated with higher levels of children's subsequent aggression toward peers. Findings indicated that children who had been spanked evidenced levels of aggression that were higher than those who had not been spanked, and children who had been the objects of violent discipline became the most aggressive of all groups. Patterns were qualified by the sexes of the parent and child and subtypes of child aggression (reactive, bullying, and instrumental). The findings suggest that in spite of parents' goals, spanking fails to promote prosocial development and, instead, is associated with higher rates of aggression toward peers.


c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Zvi Strassberg, Department of Psychology and Human Development, Box 512 GPC, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.