Category: Parenting / Families

Symposium

Physical Punishment Practices Over Time in a Sample of Latina Mothers

Friday, November 17
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Location: Sapphire Ballroom O & P, Level 4, Sapphire Level

Keywords: Diversity | Parenting | Externalizing
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: Prior research has examined the impact of physical punishment on child development, but mixed findings have led to polarized views on its use. A number of national surveys show that parents in the U.S. commonly use physical punishment to discipline their young children.  Varying cultural norms on discipline practices have also been shown, leading to greater reliance on physical punishment among Latino parents.  But little is known about the use of physical punishment over time, or the impact of the continued use of physical punishment on Latino child behavior problems. This paper fills this gap by examining the relationship between in the use of physical punishment over time and child behavior for Dominican (DA) and Mexican-American (MA) families.  Additionally, we consider how social support, a key protective factor for Latino families, may influence these associations.


Methods:  Participants were 212 MA and DA families recruited for a study of early childhood development.  Over two years, we collected data at three time points, when children were approximately 4-, 5- and 6-years old.  Assessments included measures of parenting practices, child behavior and demographics. We tested a path model to examine the impact of demographic factors and social support (at Time 1) on changes in use of physical punishment (Time 1 to Time 2), and the impact of this on child externalizing behavior (at Time 3).


Results: Half of mothers endorsed the use of physical punishment at Time 1, and the rate decreased over time. Model testing showed that only child behavior at Time 1 predicted changes in use of physical punishment (β = .181, p < .05); neither child gender nor social support were significant predictors.  Change in the use of physical punishment, in turn, was a significant predictor of externalizing behavior at Time 3 (β = -.195), as were child gender (β = -.14) and child behavior at Time 1 (β = .734).  Results were consistent across ethnic groups.


Conclusion:  Consistent with coercive family processes, when mothers responded to child misbehavior by increasing theiruse of physical punishment, their children’s externalizing behaviors further increased. This suggests the relationship between child behavior and physical punishment is bi-directional. Given evidence for the relatively common use of physical punishment in Latina mothers, regardless of social support, parent training programs have great potential to disrupt these coercive patterns. 


 

Catherine LaBrenz

Doctoral Student
University of Texas at Austin

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