Method: Final analyses are based on a subsample of nearly 1,000 fathers who provided self-reported data on CP and a host of other factors at the data collection points when the target child was 3-years and 5-years of age. The primary outcomes are the child's 5-year scores on Child Behavior Checklist 1.5 – 5 externalizing behavior problems subscale (e.g., child is defiant, is demanding, destroys others' things, is disobedient) and internalizing behavior problems subscale (e.g., child clings to adults, feelings hurt easily, looks unhappy). CP is assessed based on father report of frequency of spanking in the past month (non-CP = never in the past month, moderate-CP = only once or twice in the month, heavy-CP = a few times or more, a few times a week, every day, or nearly every day). Multiple regression analyses control for child behavior problems at 3-years, other forms of paternal harsh parenting directed toward the child (measured by the Conflict Tactics Scale Parent-Child), paternal major depression, involvement with the child, parenting stress, child sex (male/ female), and a comprehensive set of demographic factors.
Results: Multiple regression analyses indicated that paternal CP at 3-years significantly predicted externalizing behavior problems at 5-years. Specifically, heavy-CP significantly predicted 5-year externalizing behavior problems (â = .08, p < .001), whereas moderate-CP did not. Child aggression at 3-years was also a significant predictor of 5-year externalizing behavior problems. Fathers' use of alcohol and/or drug was the only paternal psychosocial factor that was significantly related to child externalizing behavior. While moderate-CP and heavy-CP were significantly associated with the child's anxious/ depressed and withdrawn CBCL scores at the bivariate level, CP was not significant predictors of these outcomes in the multivariate models. In this community sample we do not find strong evidence of a main effect for race/ ethnic differences.
Conclusions & Implications: To date, little is known about the consequences of fathers' CP, or their disciplinary practices more generally. This is particularly problematic because fathers are over-represented as perpetrators of physical child maltreatment. This study is unique in that it uses self-reported data from fathers about their parenting, and demonstrates a “fathering influence” on children. That is, like maternal spanking, paternal spanking is significantly positively associated with externalizing behavior problems when a child is 5-years of age. Parenting interventions need to more explicitly focus on the role of fathers in disciplining children, and future research should examine how to effectively communicate this information to fathers.