Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Lovejoy, M. Christine

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Psychology


Corporal punishment--Psychological aspects


Spanking is a popularly implemented form of corporal punishment among American parents, although its merit is debated by professionals. Research on spanking provides only equivocal conclusions to the spanking debate because it does not control for other variables that may account for the associations observed between spanking and negative child attributes, and because it seldom examines factors that may protect children from the possibly adverse effects of spanking. Additionally, research on spanking heavily focuses on children's externalizing behavior problems, while almost excluding the examination of internal child characteristics, such as social schemata and self-perception. The current study examines whether maternal spanking, defined in its mildest form, predicts the development of child behavior problems, attachment quality, and level of perceived social acceptance after controlling for the effects of corporal punishment and a harsh parenting style. The current study also examines whether a warm parenting style moderates the empirical associations between spanking and each of the aforementioned child variables. Sixty-two mothers and their four- or five-year-old children participated. Mothers provided data on their use of spanking, corporal punishment, their expressions of both warm and harsh parenting styles, and their children's behavior problems. Children provided data on their attachment quality and level of perceived social acceptance. Regression analyses were computed to examine whether spanking predicted child variables after controlling for the effects of corporal punishment and a harsh parenting style, and to examine whether maternal warmth moderated the effect of spanking on each of the child variables. Consistent with prior research, results of the current study yielded a significant association between spanking and child externalizing behavior problems, which was observed even after controlling for the effects of corporal punishment and a harsh parenting style. Additionally, a warm parenting style moderated the associated between spanking and attachment quality such that a combination of low levels of both maternal warmth and spanking were associated with insecure attachment. Maternal warmth did not moderate the effects of spanking on either externalizing problems or perceived social acceptance. An association between spanking and perceived social acceptance was not observed in the current study.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [75]-86).


133 pages




Northern Illinois University

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