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Keywords:

  • externalizing behavior;
  • Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study;
  • internalizing behavior;
  • parent–child relations;
  • spanking;
  • structural equation modeling

The authors tested a series of models linking spanking and child social-emotional outcomes using a sample of 3,870 families from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing study. Spanking was measured by the number of times the focal child was spanked by the mother at ages 1, 3, and 5. Internalizing and externalizing symptoms were assessed using the Child Behavior Checklist at ages 3 and 5. Child emotionality was used to index child behavior at age 1. A series of nested transactional and cascade models was tested through structural equation modeling. The final model supported transactional effects between spanking and child externalizing behaviors over child ages 1, 3, and 5. In addition, one cascade effect was found: Spanking at age 1 was related to greater externalizing behavior at age 3, which was related to greater internalizing behavior at age 5. Implications for family theory and future research are discussed.