Parental corporal punishment predicts behavior problems in early childhood.
Using data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development (Research Triangle Institute, 2002), this study examined the impact of corporal punishment (CP) on children's behavior problems. Longitudinal analyses were specified that controlled for covarying contextual and parenting variables and that partialed child effects. The results indicate that parental CP uniquely contributes to negative behavioral adjustment in children at both 36 months and at 1st grade, with the effects at the earlier age more pronounced in children with difficult temperaments. Parents and mental health professionals who work to modify children's negative behavior should be aware of the unique impact that CP likely plays in triggering and maintaining children's behavior problems. Broad-based family policies that reduce the use of this parenting behavior would potentially increase children's mental health and decrease the incidence of children's behavior problems.