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Child Dev. 1992 Dec;63(6):1321-35.

Some consequences of early harsh discipline: child aggression and a maladaptive social information processing style.

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  • 1Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.


Although a number of studies have reported a relation between abusive parental behavior and later aggressive behavior in the victim, many of these investigations have had methodological limitations that make precise interpretation of their results problematic. In the present study, we attempted to determine whether harsh parental discipline occurring early in life was associated with later aggression and internalizing behavior in children, using a prospective design with randomly selected samples to avoid some of these methodological difficulties. Structural equation modeling indicated a consistent relation between harsh discipline and aggression in 2 separate cohorts of children. This relation did not appear to be due to possible confounding factors such as child temperament, SES, and marital violence, although there was some indication in our data that the latter variables were related to child aggression. In addition, our analyses suggested that the effect of harsh discipline on child aggression may be mediated at least in part by maladaptive social information processing patterns that develop in response to the harsh discipline.

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