Two new studies explore how discipline changes during childhood and adolescence, and what family factors affect those changes. They conclude that when parents use physical discipline through childhood, their children experience more behavior problems in adolescence.
They find that parents typically adjust the way they discipline their children in response to their children's growing cognitive abilities, using less physical discipline (spanking, slapping, hitting with an object) over time. As children grow older, physical discipline becomes less developmentally appropriate. However, when parents' use of physical discipline continues through childhood, by the time their children are teens, they're more likely to have behavior problems. Teens of parents who stop using physical discipline when their children are young are less likely to have these behavior problems.
The studies were conducted by researchers at Duke University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Auburn University, and Indiana University. They appear in the September/October 2009 issue of Child Development.