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February 1978

Parental Punishment: A Longitudinal Analysis of Effects

Author Affiliations

From the New York State Department of Mental Hygiene, Albany (Dr Lefkowitz) and the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle, Chicago (Drs Huesmann and Eron).

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1978;35(2):186-191. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1978.01770260064007

• We investigated the relation between parental reports of punishment administered to their 8-year-old children and the reports of these children obtained ten years later concerning their hypothetical use of punishment on their own children. Based on the modeling hypothesis, it was predicted that punishing parents will produce punishing children. Also hypothesized was that parental punishment could be related to other kinds of aggressive behavior manifested by their children. Data, on the use of punishment and on other variables, were obtained as part of a larger study from 185 mothers and 144 fathers. At the same time data were collected from the children of these parents on still other variables. Approximately ten years later these children, now young adults, were reinterviewed and the identical instrument to which their parents responded was used to collect data on their punishment proclivities. Concomitantly, peer and self-ratings of aggressive behavior and other data were obtained. Punishment appears to have intergenerational effects and is also related to aggressive behavior of male recipients ten years later. Sociocultural variables and IQ, however, play an overriding role in the long-term analysis. Hypothetically, a lower IQ constricts a child's learning options due, perhaps, to limitations in verbal comprehension and concept formation. Direct, salient behavior, such as punitiveness and aggressiveness may be easier to learn than the more subtle and wider variety of social behaviors of which brighter children can avail themselves.