Parents Yell and Spank More as Kids Get Older
Discipline Practices Vary by Child's Age, Parents' Ethnicity, Emotions
WebMD News Archive
June 8, 2004 -- What makes a parent choose a time out over a
spanking to discipline a child? A new study suggests that the parent's level of
frustration as well as the child's age may have a lot to do with it.
Researchers found three times as many highly frustrated parents
say they use spanking frequently to discipline their children compared with
less frustrated parents. But most parents report using spanking as a form of
discipline by the time their child reaches age 3.
The study also shows that more adolescent parents and black
parents report more frequent spanking than others, and Spanish-speaking parents
are less likely to use time outs or take a toy away in disciplining their
How Parents Discipline Children
In the study, researchers looked at how often more than 2,000
parents of very young children used common discipline practices and what
factors were related to the use of the following strategies:
- Time out
- Toy removal
- Providing explanations
The results appear in the June issue of Pediatrics.
Among parents of children aged 19 to 35 months, providing
explanations was the most frequently used discipline strategy (90%) followed by
using time out (70%), yelling (67%), taking away a toy or treat (65%), and
The study showed one of the most significant factors affecting
discipline choices -- such as yelling and spanking -- was the age of the child.
For example, researchers found that the older the child was, the more likely
the parent reported yelling at the child frequently as a form of
- 13% of parents reported yelling often or sometimes at infants 4 to 9 months
- 47% of parents said they yelled often or sometimes at children between 10
and 18 months of age.
- 67% of parents with children between 19 and 35 months reported yelling
often or sometimes.
The use of spanking also increased with child age, with 6% of
parents of infants between the ages of 4 and 9 months saying they had ever
spanked their child, and 64% of parents of 19-to-35-month-year-old children
In addition, researchers found that the parent's emotional
well-being was also associated with greater use of yelling and spanking. The
study showed frustration with child rearing increased during the first three
years of life, and this increase prompted more parents to react in a harsh
manner, such as by yelling or spanking.
However, the study also showed that mothers who were employed
reported less frustration, which suggests that work may provide a respite from
the demands of child rearing for working mothers.
Researchers say the findings show that many factors affect
parents' discipline strategies and understanding those dynamics can help
health-care providers and counselors provide parents with guidance about