Development and Psychopathology

Regular Articles

Reciprocal relations between parents' physical discipline and children's externalizing behavior during middle childhood and adolescence

Jennifer E. Lansforda1 c1, Michael M. Crissa2, Robert D. Lairda3, Daniel S. Shawa4, Gregory S. Pettita5, John E. Batesa6 and Kenneth A. Dodgea1

a1 Duke University

a2 Oklahoma State University

a3 University of New Orleans

a4 University of Pittsburgh

a5 Auburn University

a6 Indiana University

Abstract

Using data from two long-term longitudinal projects, we investigated reciprocal relations between maternal reports of physical discipline and teacher and self-ratings of child externalizing behavior, accounting for continuity in both discipline and externalizing over time. In Study 1, which followed a community sample of 562 boys and girls from age 6 to 9, high levels of physical discipline in a given year predicted high levels of externalizing behavior in the next year, and externalizing behavior in a given year predicted high levels of physical discipline in the next year. In Study 2, which followed an independent sample of 290 lower income, higher risk boys from age 10 to 15, mother-reported physical discipline in a given year predicted child ratings of antisocial behavior in the next year, but child antisocial behavior in a given year did not predict parents' use of physical discipline in the next year. In neither sample was there evidence that associations between physical discipline and child externalizing changed as the child aged, and findings were not moderated by gender, race, socioeconomic status, or the severity of the physical discipline. Implications for the reciprocal nature of the socialization process and the risks associated with physical discipline are discussed.

(Online publication January 24 2011)

Correspondence

c1 Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Jennifer E. Lansford, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708; E-mail: lansford@duke.edu.

Footnotes

The Child Development Project is funded by Grants MH42498, MH56961, MH57024, and MH57095 from the National Institute of Mental Health; Grant HD30572 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and Grant DA016903 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Pitt Mother–Child Project is funded by Grants MH50907 and MH01666 from the National Institute of Mental Health. Kenneth A. Dodge is supported by Senior Scientist award 2K05 DA015226 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. We are grateful to the participants in this research.