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The Influence of Childhood Experience on Parents Disciplinary Practices

Benjamin Scheindlin, MD, Shari Barkin, MD, Edward Ip, PhD and Stacia Finch, MA.
1 Burlington Pediatrics, Burlington, MA; 2 Pediatrics, WFUSM, W-S, NC; 3 Public Health Sciences, WFUSM, W-S, NC and 4 PROS, CCHR, AAP, Elk Grove Village, IL.

Background: Although studies on parental disciplinary techniques have examined the impact of recent and current parent, child, and family factors, little is known about how parent's experiences of discipline in childhood affect their disciplinary practices.

Objective: To examine the association between parent's experiences of discipline when they were a child and current discipline strategies.

Design/Methods: Parents with children ages 2-11 seen for their well child exam in PROS practices from 27 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico (N=1,544) completed pre-visit surveys that included questions on current discipline approaches used, parent's childhood discipline experiences, and demographic factors. We conducted multiple multivariate analyses; each with a dependent variable of most often used current discipline technique. The independent variables included child's age and gender, maternal education level, number of children and adults in the home, relationship with the child, marital status, and discipline parents experienced as a child.

Results: Parents reported the type of discipline used most when they were children: removal of privileges (32.5%); yelling (22.6%); sent to the bedroom (19.6%); spanking (18.8%); time-outs (4.3%); and other (2.2%). Parents? discipline approaches currently used most often included: time-outs (42%), removal of privileges (41%), sent to bedroom (27%), yelling (13%) and spanking (9%). Parents reported using time-outs and spanking more often in younger children (ages 2-5) and taking away privileges, yelling, and restriction to their bedroom for older children (ages 6-11). In multivariate analyses, parents who experienced a particular discipline strategy in childhood were more likely to use the same technique currently for: time-outs (OR:3.16, p<0.00001); sent to the bedroom (OR: 1.86, p<0.0001); yelling (OR:1.81, p<0.005); and take away privileges (OR: 1.41, p<0.01). The only form of parental discipline experienced in childhood that was not significantly associated with current choice of discipline was spanking.

Conclusions: Most of parents current disciplinary practices are influenced by their past experiences as children. Pediatric practitioners should consider discussing parents? childhood discipline experiences when discussing discipline with families.

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