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J Fam Psychol. 2007 Jun;21(2):165-75.

Does endorsement of physical discipline matter? Assessing moderating influences on the maternal and child psychological correlates of physical discipline in African American families.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3270, USA. vcmcloyd@unc.edu


Using longitudinal data from a subsample of 890 African American families in the Child Development Supplement of the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, this study examined whether maternal endorsement of physical discipline moderates the link between (a) maternal psychological distress and spanking frequency and (b) spanking frequency and child depressive symptoms. As predicted, physical discipline administered by nonendorsing mothers was more strongly linked to maternal psychological distress than physical discipline administered by endorsing mothers. Also in keeping with the authors' hypothesis, the relation between spanking frequency and child-reported depressive symptoms was stronger for children of nonendorsing mothers than for children of endorsing mothers. In particular, the positive relation between physical discipline and children's depressive symptoms was significant only for children of nonendorsing mothers. These findings suggest that within-group variation in African American mothers' attitudes about physical discipline partially regulates the conditions under which these mothers use physical discipline and the probability that physical discipline contributes to depressive symptoms in children. Conclusions and implications for future research are discussed.

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