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Correlates and Consequences of Spanking and Verbal Punishment for Low-Income White, African American, and Mexican American Toddlers

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  • This research was supported by National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Grant K01MH70378 awarded to Lisa Berlin. The findings reported here are based on research conducted as part of the national Early Head Start Research and Evaluation Project funded by the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services under contract 105-95-1936 to Mathematica Policy Research, Princeton, NJ, and Columbia University’s Center for Children and Families, Teachers College, in conjunction with the Early Head Start Research Consortium. The Consortium consists of representatives from 17 programs participating in the evaluation, 15 local research teams, the evaluation contractors, and ACF. Research institutions in the Consortium (and principal researchers) include ACF (Rachel Chazan Cohen, Judith Jerald, Esther Kresh, Helen Raikes, and Louisa Tarullo); Catholic University of America (Michaela Farber, Harriet Liebow, Nancy Taylor, Elizabeth Timberlake, and Shavaun Wall); The National Center for Children and Families at Columbia University (Lisa Berlin, Christy Brady-Smith, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, and Allison Sidle Fuligni); Harvard University (Catherine Ayoub, Barbara Alexander Pan, and Catherine Snow); Iowa State University (Dee Draper, Gayle Luze, Susan McBride, Carla Peterson); Mathematica Policy Research (Kimberly Boller, Jill Constantine, Ellen Eliason Kisker, John M. Love, Diane Paulsell, Christine Ross, Peter Schochet, Cheri Vogel, and Welmoet van Kammen); Medical University of South Carolina (Richard Faldowski, Gui-Young Hong, and Susan Pickrel); Michigan State University (Hiram Fitzgerald, Tom Reischl, and Rachel Schiffman); New York University (Mark Spellmann and Catherine Tamis-LeMonda); University of Arkansas (Robert Bradley, Richard Clubb, Andrea Hart, Mark Swanson, and Leanne Whiteside-Mansell); University of California, Los Angeles (Carollee Howes and Claire Hamilton); University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (Robert Emde, Jon Korfmacher, JoAnn Robinson, Paul Spicer, and Norman Watt); University of Kansas (Jane Atwater, Judith Carta, and Jean Ann Summers); University of Missouri–Columbia (Mark Fine, Jean Ispa, and Kathy Thornburg); University of Pittsburgh (Beth Green, Carol McAllister, and Robert McCall); University of Washington School of Education (Eduardo Armijo and Joseph Stowitschek); University of Washington School of Nursing (Kathryn Barnard and Susan Spieker); and Utah State University (Lisa Boyce, Gina Cook, Catherine Callow-Heusser, and Lori Roggman). The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Health and Human Services. We thank Nancy Hill and Judi Mesman for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article, and Jamilah Taylor for assistance with manuscript preparation.

concerning this article should be addressed to Lisa J. Berlin, Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0545. Electronic mail may be sent to ljberlin@duke.edu.

Abstract

This study examined the prevalence, predictors, and outcomes of spanking and verbal punishment in 2,573 low-income White, African American, and Mexican American toddlers at ages 1, 2, and 3. Both spanking and verbal punishment varied by maternal race/ethnicity. Child fussiness at age 1 predicted spanking and verbal punishment at all 3 ages. Cross-lagged path analyses indicated that spanking (but not verbal punishment) at age 1 predicted child aggressive behavior problems at age 2 and lower Bayley mental development scores at age 3. Neither child aggressive behavior problems nor Bayley scores predicted later spanking or verbal punishment. In some instances, maternal race/ethnicity and/or emotional responsiveness moderated the effects of spanking and verbal punishment on child outcomes.

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