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Child Abuse Negl. 2010 Sep;34(9):639-46. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2010.01.012. Epub 2010 Jul 17.

Relationships between parents' use of corporal punishment and their children's endorsement of spanking and hitting other children.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of Colorado at Colorado Springs, 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80933, USA.



To explore the intergenerational cycle of violence, the present study examined the relationship between parental approval and children's approval of corporal punishment (CP) and the subsequent relationship between children's CP experience and preference for hitting to resolve interpersonal conflict.


Participants consisted of 102 families, parents, and children, ages 3-7 years old. Parents were assessed on their reported practices and beliefs about corporal punishment using 3 self-report measures. Fifty-four boys and 48 girls were interviewed by researchers to assess their approval of spanking and hitting.


Children whose parents approved of and used CP were more likely to endorse hitting as a strategy for resolving interpersonal conflicts with peers and siblings. Frequent spanking was the strongest predictor of children's acceptance of aggressive problem solving, above and beyond parental acceptance, parental experience of CP, and familial demographics.


Findings supported an intergenerational cycle of violence; parents who experienced frequent corporal punishment during childhood perceived its use as acceptable and frequently spanked their children. These children, in turn, advocated that spanking be used as a disciplinary method and preferred aggressive conflict resolution strategies with peers and siblings. These findings support an additional "side effect of spanking;" when parents use CP it teaches their children that hitting is an acceptable means of dealing with conflict.


Practitioners should encourage parents to avoid using CP as a disciplinary method which could lead to a change in the attitudes and behaviors of the next generation of parents.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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