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Trajectories of Physical Discipline: Early Childhood Antecedents and Developmental Outcomes


  • Portions of this research were presented at the biennial meeting of the Society for Research on Child Development, April 2005, Atlanta, GA. The Child Development Project has been funded by Grants MH42498, MH56961, MH57024, and MH57095 from the National Institute of Mental Health; HD30572 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development; and DA016903 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Pittsburgh Mother–Child Project has been funded by Grants MH50907 and MH01666.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jennifer E. Lansford, Duke University, Center for Child and Family Policy, Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708. Electronic mail may be sent to


This study examined childhood antecedents and developmental outcomes associated with trajectories of mild and harsh parental physical discipline. Interview, questionnaire, and observational data were available from 499 children followed from ages 5 to 16 and from 258 children in an independent sample followed from ages 5 to 15. Analyses indicated distinct physical discipline trajectory groups that varied in frequency of physical discipline and rate of change. In both samples, family ecological disadvantage differentiated the trajectory groups; in the first sample, early child externalizing also differentiated the groups. Controlling for early childhood externalizing, the minimal/ceasing trajectory groups were associated with the lowest levels of subsequent adolescent antisocial behavior in both samples and with parent–adolescent positive relationship quality in the second sample.