Parental use of corporal punishment (CP) as a way of disciplining children is a widespread global problem. A number of child and family problems are linked to the behavior. Despite being commonly used to discipline children in many countries, its use is far from universal. Why do some parents use it while others do not? This paper examines the principal determinants, or predictors, that influence parental use of this form of punishment. I begin with a brief historical overview of the efforts to study the determinants of parental behavior. I then provide a brief summary of the four major categories of variables that predict CP use: socio-cultural influences; the family and social environment; child variables; and parental variables. Two types of parental variables – conscious thoughts as well as unconscious motives–will be examined in some detail. It is noteworthy that unconscious forces have received little research attention and typically go ignored. This raises an important methodological point: how CP is assessed affects the determinants studied. The article ends with a discussion of some future directions for the study of the predictors of CP and other disciplinary responses.
What causes some parents to frequently punish their children with a slap or a spank while other parents regard such disciplinary behavior as an antiquated practice or perhaps an egregious assault on a child’s dignity? The answer to why a parent behaves in one way or another is significant for several reasons. In the case of hitting a child – commonly and euphemistically called corporal punishment (CP) – there is now a very large corpus of studies, numbering well over 1,500 empirical investigations, that have established that this behavior is linked to a variety of negative outcomes in children. The problems include a vast spectrum of behavioral, relationship, and emotional difficulties, as well as physical child abuse . Pinpointing those variables that predict, serve to initiate, or contribute to the use of CP must be understood if preventive measures are to be effective. As of 2019, legislative bans exist in fifty-six countries that outlaw physical punishment in all venues and by all individuals, including parents. However, in most countries, CP continues to be widely upon the sample characteristics and the nature of particular question asked regarding CP, somewhere between 65% and 94% report that at the very least, they sometimes spank or slap their children.