Longitudinal Links Between Spanking and Children’s Externalizing Behaviors in a National Sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Families


  • This project was supported by the National Science Foundation (Grant BCS 0818478) through the Developmental Learning Science—IRADS Collaborative on the Analysis of Pathways from Childhood to Adulthood at the University of Michigan.

concerning this article should be addressed to Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Department of Human Development and Family Sciences, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station A2702, Austin, TX 78712. Electronic mail may be sent to liz.gershoff@austin.utexas.edu.


This study examined whether the longitudinal links between mothers’ use of spanking and children’s externalizing behaviors are moderated by family race/ethnicity, as would be predicted by cultural normativeness theory, once mean differences in frequency of use are controlled. A nationally representative sample of White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian American families (= 11,044) was used to test a cross-lagged path model from 5 to 8 years old. While race/ethnic differences were observed in the frequency of spanking, no differences were found in the associations of spanking and externalizing over time: Early spanking predicted increases in children’s externalizing while early child externalizing elicited more spanking over time across all race/ethnic groups.