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Parent Sci Pract. 2012 Jan;12(1):42-56.

Parental Reasoning, Denying Privileges, Yelling, and Spanking: Ethnic Differences and Associations with Child Externalizing Behavior.

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Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708.



This study was designed to examine whether African American and European American mothers differ in their discipline use when reasoning, denying privileges, yelling, and spanking are considered simultaneously and whether there are ethnic group differences in how these four forms of discipline are associated with child externalizing behavior.


Structural equation models were used to examine relations between children's externalizing behavior in kindergarten (age 5), mothers' discipline in grades 1-3 (ages 6-8), and children's externalizing behavior in grade 4 (age 9) in a sample of 585 mothers and children.


African American and European American mothers showed the same rank order frequency of reported use of each of the four forms of discipline, most frequently using reasoning, followed by yelling, denying privileges, and least frequently spanking. However, European American mothers more frequently reported using three of the four forms of discipline than did African American mothers, with no ethnic differences in the frequency with which mothers reported spanked. For European American children, higher levels of teacher-reported child externalizing in kindergarten predicted mothers' more frequent report of denying privileges, yelling, and spanking in grades 1-3; only spanking was associated with more child externalizing behaviors in grade 4. For African American children, teacher-reported child externalizing in kindergarten was unrelated to mothers' report of discipline in grades 1-3; considering predictions from discipline to grade 4 child externalizing, only denying privileges was predictive.


European American and African American families differ in links between children's teacher-reported externalizing behaviors and subsequent mother-reported discipline as well as links between mother-reported discipline and children's subsequent teacher-reported externalizing.


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