Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
N Z Med J. 2006 Jan 27;119(1228):U1818.

On the receiving end: young adults describe their parents' use of physical punishment and other disciplinary measures during childhood.

Author information

  • 1Department of Psychological Medicine, Dunedin School of Medicine, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand.



To investigate the prevalence, nature, and context of physical punishment and other forms of parental discipline, as reported by study members (SMs) of the Dunedin Multidisciplinary Health and Development Study.


962 26-year-old adults (born in Dunedin, New Zealand) were interviewed about their experiences of discipline in childhood. Study members were asked about the usual forms of punishment received in primary and secondary school years, as well as the worst punishment they ever received. Details regarding the study members' reactions to different punishments were collected. Variables related to the person administering the punishment were also investigated.


Of the study members providing data, 80% reported receiving physical punishment at some time during childhood: 29% identifying smacking; 45% reporting being hit with an object; and 6% reporting extreme physical punishment as the most severe form. Physical punishment on a regular basis was reported by 71% of study members. Results varied by age with more study members reporting physical punishment in primary school years. However, the number of study members experiencing physical punishment in adolescence was still high, at 47%. Significant gender differences were found in reported punishment, with more girls smacked, and more boys hit with an object in primary school years. Punisher-related reports showed that mothers were significantly more likely to employ non-physical forms of punishment whereas fathers were significantly more likely to use extreme physical punishment.


For many New Zealanders, experiences of physical punishment during childhood are very much the norm. These findings have implications for the young adults studied as they now enter the parenting years and for efforts aimed at prevention and early intervention for at-risk groups.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Support Center