Category: Parenting / Families

Symposium

Harsh Discipline and Young Child Internalizing and Externalizing Behaviors in Latino Immigrant Families

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

Keywords: Parenting | Externalizing | Diversity
Presentation Type: Symposium

Background: While many theories of child development underscore the benefits of parental warmth for child well-being, there is less agreement regarding parental discipline, particularly physical discipline practices such as spanking, and whether spanking adversely affects all children similarly.  Much of this literature has focused on African American families in comparison to non-Latino white families, and little is known about these associations in Latino families, who may consider the use of spanking as normative and necessary in raising respectful children. Some studies suggest that if “harsh” parenting is viewed as normative, its impact on developmental outcomes is attenuated (Landsford et al., 2005).  To address this gap, the present study capitalizes on longitudinal data from a large sample of Latino immigrant families to better understand discipline in relation to child functioning in early childhood.


 Methods: This study uses data from 633 Mexican- and Dominican-origin families who participated in a longitudinal study of Latino children. Parenting (discipline, warmth), acculturation, social support, and the cultural value of respeto were assessed via parent self-report in a sample of immigrant families with young children (mean age = 4.43 years). Twelve months later, parents and teachers assessed child behaviors.


 Results: Mothers reported more harsh physical and verbal discipline with boys than girls. Higher acculturation was associated with less harsh physical discipline, and social support was negatively correlated with both harsh physical and verbal discipline. Harsh verbal discipline at baseline was associated with child externalizing problems among both Mexican and Dominican American children and with child internalizing problems among Mexican American children at one-year follow-up. Neither parental warmth nor cultural context (i.e., respeto) moderated the association between harsh discipline and child internalizing and externalizing behaviors in this sample of young children.


Conclusion: Parenting programs that aim to support child development by curbing the use of harsh discipline practices should pay special attention to both harsh verbal and physical punishment, as both forms of discipline were associated with adverse child outcomes. Though cultural context did not moderate these associations, acculturation was directly related to the use of hars

R. Gabriela Barajas-Gonzalez

Assistant Professor
New York University

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