ANN ARBOR, Mich. - Discipline - whether it's
spanking, yelling or giving time-outs - may sometimes do little to
reduce children's behavior problems, a new study indicates.
Researchers at the University of Michigan and five
other universities looked at practices and perceptions of discipline
in six countries. They found that spanking leads to more child
aggression and anxiety, regardless of the country.
So what should parents do to teach children right
"It may be that the long-term investments
that we make in children, like spending time with them, showing that
we love them and listening to them, have a more powerful positive
effect on behavior than any form of discipline," said Andrew
Grogan-Kaylor, U-M associate professor of social work.
The study, appearing in the March/April issue of
the journal Child Development, examined the associations of mothers'
discipline techniques with children's aggressive and anxious behaviors
in China, India, Italy, Kenya, Thailand and the Philippines.
Unlike other studies, this project collected
information from both mothers and their children. Participants
included 292 mothers and their 8- to 12-year-old children.
Researchers used the sample to address two
When multiple discipline techniques are
considered at the same time, which forms of discipline emerge as
having the strongest associations with children's aggressive and
Are significant associations between
discipline practices and child behaviors moderated by the extent
to which mothers and children perceive these practices to be
normal in their communities?
The 11 discipline techniques analyzed included:
teach about good and bad behavior; get child to apologize; give a
time-out; take away privileges, spank; express disappointment; shame;
yell/scold; withdraw love for misbehavior; threaten punishment; and
promise a treat/privilege.
Mothers and children were asked about the
frequency with which others in their communities used each discipline
"When children perceive a discipline
technique to be (normal) within their culture or community, they may
be less likely to evaluate their parents' use of it as aberrant or
objectionable," Grogan-Kaylor said.
The research, he said, showed that the
relationship of some kinds of discipline with behavior problems varied
according to how common that type of discipline was used in the
community. However, despite small variations, there was a strong
consistency in the results across countries.
The bottom line: giving a time-out, using corporal
punishment, expressing disappointment and shaming were significantly
related to greater child anxiety symptoms. Child aggression resulted
from spanking, expressing disappointment and yelling.
Other researchers include lead author Elizabeth
Gershoff, University of Texas; Jennifer Lansford and Kenneth Dodge,
Duke University; Arnaldo Zelli, Istituto Universitario di Scienze
Motorie; Lei Chang, Chinese University of Hong Kong; and Kirby
Deater-Deckard, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.
Phone: (734) 936-7819