Forms of Spanking and Children's Externalizing Behaviors


  • Roudebush VA Medical Center, 1481 West 10th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202.

  • Indiana University, Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, 1101 East 10th Street, Bloomington, IN 47405.

  • Auburn University, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, Auburn University, AL 36849.

  • Duke University, Center for Child and Family Policy, Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708.

Center for Child and Family Policy, Duke University, Box 90545, Durham, NC 27708 (


Research suggests that corporal punishment is related to higher levels of child externalizing behavior, but there has been controversy regarding whether infrequent, mild spanking predicts child externalizing or whether more severe and frequent forms of corporal punishment account for the link. Mothers rated the frequency with which they spanked and whether they spanked with a hand or object when their child was 6, 7, and 8 years old. Mothers and teachers rated children's externalizing behaviors at each age. Analyses of covariance revealed higher levels of mother-reported externalizing behavior for children who experienced harsh spanking. Structural equation models for children who experienced no spanking or mild spanking only revealed that spanking was related to concurrent and prior, but not subsequent, externalizing. Mild spanking in one year was a risk factor for harsh spanking in the next year. Findings are discussed in the context of efforts to promote children's rights to protection.